Monday, June 10, 2013

The Lost Generation X: Trapped Between the Baby Boomers and Gen Y

Letters sticking on white surface spelling babyx

Being a member of Generation X is not always easy. We are sandwiched between the lifestyle and values of the baby boomers and the oncoming force of the technologically-savvy Generation Y. This creates tension for us in many parts of life.

First of all, we are the ones who started the whole letter affix business; we started with the enigmatic “X” firmly marking our spot along the generation line. We felt out of touch with the values of the baby boomers and wanted to rebel against their ideology.

Nonetheless, the baby boomers themselves had rebelled against their own parents during the roaring 60s. Yet somehow baby boomers shed their hippie skins and became more ordinary and complacent. They accepted the rules and the yoke of the authorities; in many cases, they even became the authority. These rules were then passed on to their dissatisfied offspring, the growing and still nameless Generation X.

One of their differences was regarding money and livelihood. Seeing that the two are clearly linked and giving in to the demands of society and consumer culture, the baby boomers urged us to find jobs that are sought after and appreciated by most people. More importantly, these occupations ought to be stable and bring in regular and steady income. The list of acceptable professions is familiar to most of us; they range from doctors to lawyers. One ought to go and climb where the money grows. There is little room for originality or for following one's dreams and vocation.

Their advice may be sound, practical and well-intentioned, but deep inside Generation X is not pleased with those variables. We do not care much about stability and punching in our work cards because we do not like restrictions and limitations on our personal goals. We would rather make less money but have more job fulfillment. Our rebellious nature refuses to accept the noose around our necks. In fact, we may be even self-destructively stubborn, but we do dream big. Either we make it or drown trying.

In fact, there is also quite a different stance on ideas like marriage and family. It is the Generation X that has pushed - what may seem to some - “progressive” lifestyles, such as common-law unions, while it may come as little surprise that there has been more acceptance in terms of gay marriage now that our generation is slowly taking important positions along the spectrum.

Again, Generation X hates to be bound or gagged and has perhaps taken the human rights activism of the hippies to a different level. But it turns out that our enemies are more opaque. It is often the very same baby boomers that are currently resisting these ideas of change; although it must be said, in all fairness, that some have been ready to adjust or even embrace these new outlooks and ideas. It must be also noted that the groundwork had been set by those very same baby boomers who helped create a climate of liberal ideology through the civil rights movement and feminism.

Ideology aside, for Gen Xers there are also a number of obstacles when it comes to the job front; most of these have been brought about by the advent of technology. It does not affect the baby boomers since they are on the retiring end of the spectrum. (However, a lot of them still desperately hold onto their jobs because they have pinned all their hopes and dreams on the occupational front.) Technology may be seen as opportunity for many, but it has slowed us X-ers down considerably.

For example, I did not have an email address until I was in my undergraduate years. My graduate year of research barely included Internet sources. The iPads and iPhones are new forms of technology that we had to get accustomed to very fast or else we would fall behind. I personally remember living in an age where cellphones were uncommon and even non-existent. You could not just text your friend that you would be late for a date. I have lost out on a few relationship opportunities because of that lack.

But here is the rub. Although we try hard, and I am slowly becoming technologically efficient (I'm still not fully there yet), my competition, Generation Y is already proficient. They grew up with computers and learned it quickly. Some of them are professional hackers and outdo seasoned Generation X computer analysts. The jobs in the IT sector have given them a good livelihood and to most of us X-ers they seem to speak a different language. (Although some of us were smart enough to quickly jump on the bandwagon and make the big bucks along the way. I will not say that they are sell-outs.)

Now the interesting question is what are the values and ideology of the Generation Y. To what extent has technological progress shaped and changed them in their attitudes? Do the Gen Y-ers support our causes or do they have other preoccupations? Or are they more conservative and money-oriented than we are and will they return to the footsteps of the baby boomers?

These are questions that we will find the answers to somewhere down the years. For now, we can only feel uncomfortably sandwiched between the weight of the baby boomers and the crunch of the savvy Generation Y. We were lost once, and we still are lost.

It is, as I said previously, not easy being part of the Generation X, but it is our time to shine and to fight for the changes we want to see in this world. And after all is said and done, the rest depends on our successors and inheritors of the future. Let us hope that we X-ers can provide our offspring, Gen Y and even Z, with the necessary bricks of knowledge and peace to build upon and that we will not just be remembered for being the MTV generation.