Generations. We have The Greatest Generation, The Boomer Generation, Gen X and Gen Y. We’ve come to see these various generations “diss” each other regularly, each saying something similar to, “Well, back in my day… I had to walk uphill both ways to get to and from school.”
As of late, there has been an escalating battle between Gen Xers and Gen Y, “millennials” as we’ve grown to call them. They bitch and moan about how each of their respective generations has it so rough.
“We have to live at home because we can’t find jobs,” Gen Y moans.
“Oh yeah, well we took jobs we didn’t want, so we didn’t have live in our mom’s basement,” retorts Gen X.
A recent Pew Research Center study calls Gen X “the neglected middle child.” They consider Gen X those ages 34 to 49, which I barely fall into. To me, Gen X is in their 40s. Talking to a friend of mine in her 40s recently, it is clear that we are not of the same generation, at least not technology-wise. (Though, talking to a 25-year-old isn’t much better.) Gen X is not quite my generation. While I will admit I’m starting to the feel the pangs of middle age — my body is falling apart and I keep asking myself, “What am I doing with my life?” — I didn’t reap the benefits of the Clinton administration.
Here’s my question: What about MY GENERATION? We feel much more like a middle child than Gen X ever could. What to call us … the “Betweeners” until I think of something better. Wait, Gen XY is much better. My high school biology teacher used to say, “You girls are missing something. That Y chromosome.” He was one of the best teachers I had and was not a chauvinist. Simply a smartass. But calling us Gen XY definitely fits.
What do I mean by Gen XY? The Pew study says Gen X is “book-ended” by boomers and millennials. My hybrid generation, a ‘tween generation so-to-speak, I’ll consider as people from the ages of 33 to about 39 — still children of the 80s, but without quite so much angst — and not quite millennial — we didn’t spring from the womb with some sort of an electronic device in our hands.
With each generation that sets forth, each thinks that the previous generation had it better than them, and maybe a little vice versa. But, really, being in Gen XY is fantastic.
We’re young enough to still have our wits about us (thank goodness), and we grew up before the Internet was known by anyone other than those who invented it. Our lazy habit of choice was playing video games on the first Nintendo and, even then, most families didn’t have a gaming system. If you knew someone who did, that’s where you hung out after school.
Gen XY can still be nostalgic. We grew up with Saved by the Bell (I wanted to have a band called “Kelly Kapowski and the Morrises,” where I would have had bleached blonde hotties dancing behind me.), Fresh Prince, Blossom, The Cosbys, The Smurfs, Carebears, Cabbage Patch Kids, Garbage Pail Kids, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite. Now, I go into an Urban Outfitters and see those things on T-shirts underneath a sign that says “Retro Tees.”
And the music? Thank you Gen X for creating the last great era of music. Some of you might hate Grunge, but anything is better than all the little Bieber-types polluting the airwaves now. We got to listen to Nirvana when they were still a band, and The Pixies had a chick in the band that actually played an instrument and wasn’t there just to look pretty. Not only that, chick bands who finally didn’t play pop music exploded on the scene: Hole, Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill– True riot grrrls. Gen Y chicks should praise the riot grrrls for making it OK for them to be themselves without apologizing for it.
Gen Y might have launched from the womb texting, but they’ll never know true freedom. True freedom is waking at 7 A.M. on a summer day, hopping on your bike and not returning home until dark. No cell phones. No check-ins. If you weren’t home by dark, then your parents might start to worry. Gen XY is the last generation to know what true freedom feels like.
We XYers grew up worshiping the music and wardrobe of Gen X, and now envy the tech of Gen Y. Do we have more tech prowess than Gen X? Perhaps, if only because started on computers much younger. My parents were a tiny bit older than the Baby Boomer generation — my siblings are at the tail end of the Boomers/beginning of Gen X — and the fact that I was working on a computer at age 5 blew their minds. It was a topic of discussion at dinner parties.
“Did you know they’ve already got Sonja on computers at school?” my dad would say. “I never thought I’d see the day.”
I thought it was a big deal only because they made it one. “I get to use computers at school,” I’d proudly brag to my brother and sister. “You didn’t get to do that.” To this day, I’m pretty sure my brother has never used a traditional computer. He does have an iPhone and an email address now and couldn’t wait to show me.
“Check this out,” he said as he revealed his new toy. “It gets Internet and email.”
“Cool, bro. I had that iPhone. Sean has the newest one,” I said, thus unintentionally sucking the wind out of his sails. So, I back pedaled, “That’s great for you! Now we can email each other!”
As I’ve written previously, my late father was mesmerized by these new “pocket computers.” Though, when I visited him, it basically served as a paperweight because of lack of cell towers.
“My lands, look at that,” my father said. “You can work from that thing? Do your writing?”
“If I have to, but it’s more for checking my email, staying in touch with people, when I’m away from my computer. I can take notes for stories or ideas that hit me when I’m not at the office,” I said.
It blew his mind. “In my lifetime…pocket computers …”
The rapid explosion of technology over the last 25 years has done something else. It’s created an entrepreneurial generation, a true mishmash of we XYers and Gen Y. Millennials, and we Gen XYers, have become a hybrid of our own. The ‘Trep Generation. And we’ve done so out of necessity. The post-millennial generation will likely need to be even more resourceful than us. Even 10 years ago, the world was different for work.
When I told Minnesota-based publications (who were national, mind you) that I was moving to New York, I became nonexistent to them. That was in 2007. I’d done great work for them, but telecommuting wasn’t a true “thing” yet. I thought with freelance writing it wouldn’t matter.
On the flipside, when I moved back to the Midwest in 2012, it was a far different story. Granted, I was running my own business by then (where all of my clients were virtual anyway), but I often wonder what would have happened to my business in 2007 if I’d had only local clients. I thank the universe every day that the world has become virtual. Companies now let their employees telecommute and you can literally work from anywhere for anyone. This is the world I always dreamed about.
What do you do when you can’t find a job? You create your own. A somewhat easy solution if you have a clear picture of what you want to do with your life. I think previous generations had some of that, clearly, or some of the business around today would be here, but now if you find your niche, you can make a living doing whatever you want. We are very lucky in that respect.
Still, the cost of living continues to rise. Wages for most have stagnated. It’s slightly easier if you work for yourself because you have an unlimited potential for making money. That being said, does XY truly have it any better than previous generations? I definitely think my parents and siblings had an easier time than XYers. They at least had a middle class. They could survive and live relatively well being middle class. Now? You’re either a part of the 1 percent making bucko bucks, or the 99 percent who can barely make ends meet.
The debate will rage on about who has it better or worse. If I have children, I’ll probably tell them they’re “so lucky” to have all the things I didn’t have. “You don’t have to walk uphill in the snow to get to school like I did.” And on it will go.