Gen-X might be having a moment

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 5, 2024, 11:46 PM | comments: 0

Some combination of my own journey, things I hear on celebrity podcasts, stuff musicians say, articles... all point to a certain level of self-awareness among the members of my generation. I suppose this is just something that happens to people in midlife, but it feels bigger than that, if only because it's our lived experience.

The background might matter. When we were in high school, the "grown ups" told us, go to college or a trade school. Don't rock the boat. In our college years and 20's, it was already pretty clear that the generation before us left a real shit show for us to clean up. The problem is that we got so used to being called the slacker generation that we kind of bought it, and didn't engage. There were hints that we could have, as we seemed to be the only people to take the AIDS epidemic seriously, and we pushed for recycling.

Then two decades passed, and to be honest, we were still phoning it in. There has never been a Gen-X president. (Obama was born in 1961, so while he may have been embraced by us, he wasn't one of us.) Hell, we went backward and had two Boomers since, one of which is a total sociopath, the other just... old. But during these two decades, it's not like we haven't gained wisdom and experience. We've seen some shit.

Now it's starting to feel like we're waking up. We accept the reality of our childhoods, the concept of chosen family, the place of work in our lives, how remarkable technology is, the importance of mental health... just getting our priorities right. The question is, will we step up and attempt to lead? I anecdotally see it now and then in my line of work, but no obvious trend. The reality is that our role may be limited, with the understanding that it's not always worth stepping up for things that clearly do not serve us. For example, I'm ready to walk away with something that I've been involved with for years, and I'm good with it.

For me, it's coming to grips with all of my story so far. High school was socially a disaster and I was lonely most of the time. I spent literally decades embarrassed by that, instead of embracing it as a means to move on from it. In college, I struggled to make romantic connections (in retrospect, largely because I was oblivious to signals). The things that drove me out of radio and television were not really about me (well, except for the part where software was clearly a more lucrative career). Getting divorced was, in some ways, a gift that enabled Team Puzzoni, and I still get to be friends with my first wife. And the autism and ADHD diagnoses were literally a life changing gift. I can give myself the grace to believe that I'm not defective in my relationships. I'm starting to better understand my interaction with every human being, and acknowledge when I just need to break away for a bit.

It seems like a lot of anthropologists and psychologists consider all of this as the normal progression through life. But as part of a generation that has little common experience beyond 9/11, it does feel like something we share.


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