Generation X: Looking for their spot
Generation X, are you feeling ignored, left behind, overlooked? I know I am.
As one who was born the year Richard Nixon resigned his presidency, the
Rubik's Cube was invented and Stephen King published his novel
"Carrie," I'm feeling the burden of being lost to history. Generation
X is confined between baby boomers and Millennials, suffering from way smaller
numbers and a considerably less cool collective name.
The Pew Research Center's recent announcement that as of Jan. 1, the 75
million or so baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 would be turning 65 at
the stunning rate of 10,000 per day for the next 19 years got me worrying about
what will become of poor, forgotten Generation X.
Am I -- and the other 48 million people who came of age as Duckie was
being ignored by Andie for that pretty boy Blane in John Hughes' "Pretty
in Pink" -- basically staring down a future with zero hope for the safety
nets of Medicare and Social Security? Already the bankruptcy date for Medicare
has been estimated at 2017, when the oldest Gen Xers won't yet be lamenting
their 50th birthdays.
The financial picture doesn't worry me as much as does the prospect of
my generation dying off in anonymity. We toil in the shadows of the endlessly-talked-about
boomers and precede the Millennials who have all the advantages of growing up
in a historic electronic and information age.
The Millennials, those born between 1979 and 1997 and also known as
Generation Y, enjoy the power of numbers. At roughly 80 million, they're even
more numerous than boomers and almost twice in number as Generation X. But
because of the Great Recession, they're becoming a symbol of lost opportunity.
If they're in their early teens, they're highly likely to have been hit with
family hardship that could alter the course of their lives forever. Late teens
to young adults will be burdened with the inability either to afford college or
to get out from under its massive debts, and there are precious few jobs on the
Yet, it's because of those combined experiences that Millennials are
widely seen as the true "Next Generation" to take today's realities
and redefine the values of how we live and work in this country.
So where does that leave Generation X in this history-changing
generational sandwich? It remains to be seen, but according to Patricia Martin,
a culture expert and author of "Renaissance Generation: The Rise of the
Cultural Consumer -- and What it Means to Your Business," we Xers are
about to come into our own.
She noted that Gen Xers have been low-profile because so many are
currently occupied with raising families, but their innate characteristics have
them poised to bridge generational gaps that will leave an important -- if
subtle -- mark on the world.
"Because they live in the shadow of both generations, they have
never been allowed to have a full expression of their ego, and that kind of
puts Generation Xers in a great place where they can facilitate other people's
work while creating their own success," Martin told me. "We are
entering a new age of cooperation -- capitalism as we've always understood it
is no longer functioning. We're seeing America revising the American Dream on a
daily basis. Who could be better suited to usher in the new era of the
belt-tightened collective society than the generation known to be focused on
balanced lifestyles, who didn't buy into the rat race that, in the end, boomers
didn't end up better for?"
Martin foretells a time when -- as boomers take less active roles in
work and social life and Millennials begin to create families and lasting
careers of their own -- Generation X will be there to create their own
relationships, settings and opportunities while boomers pass the torch on to
the Millennials, who've spent their youth building non-traditional work, family
and social lives much as the boomers did.
"The shift is under way: People will have to join together to
rebuild our nation," Martin said. "Generation X's softer and more
collaborative approach to leadership will eventually win the day,"
What a relief to know we're not slackers. Gen X's personality traits --
pragmatism, authenticity, focus on self-reliance, comfort in embracing change,
and mistrust of institutions, rules and the status quo -- might help change the
world after all.
© 2011, Washington Post Writers Group