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Thankful Thursday XXXI – Talking About My Generation

This Thankful Thursday I’m thankful for my generation. Not the Who song – that was representative of the generation before me – but Gen X, as we’ve come to be known. Or more precisely, to be a part of it.

Of course, each generation probably thinks it’s the best. I, perhaps typical of this generation, don’t necessarily claim that ours was the best. But I’m glad I grew up when I did.

To me, my generation got the best of music, the best of TV and, more importantly, the best conditions to grow up in. Notice I don’t say “easiest” however. I love that I grew up listening to Top 40 radio on transistor radios in the ’70s that exposed me to a bit of everything ranging from Motown to country to early heavy metal to disco. Sure, we didn’t really see The Beatles in real time, but I heard them plenty on radio and courtesy my older brother. By the ’80s as adulthood came a-knockin’, college classes were bookended by a new music that was actually exciting. Young kids these days won’t know the High Fidelity-like experience of hanging out at a grubby, crowded record shop looking for import Depeche Mode singles and hearing the music snobs behind the counter going on about the Pixies and Marshall Crenshaw. We were a generation that wanted to change the world. Well, don’t they all, I suppose. But it seems to me that outside of the tail-end of the Baby Boom, young people before were too conventional to challenge the status quo. The youth of today want to change the world too, but I’m not sure that that extends too far beyond the right for young women to call themselves”men” and vice versa for most of them. Some of my happiest times were summers during my university years, working for a conservation agency, with dozens of similarly-involved people around my age. We sure knew how to party at night… but by day, we were all about working on environmental projects and educating people about the need for conservation. Whether it amounted to a lot or not, we were doing something that we felt was bigger than ourselves, that was going to make the world a better place.

Moreover, I think I’m lucky because I straddle the digital and analog age. I grew up spending lots of time in libraries. At school, at the city ones, looking through stacks of books, going through card catalogs to find a title. It seemed like there wasn’t a question that couldn’t be answered by the Encyclopedia Britannica, all fifteen feet of shelving of it. I took typing classes at school, banging away on old manual machines, periodically getting my hands dirty changing the ribbons. It was good experience. But thankfully I was just young enough to see the value of computers by some time in the ’90s, and pick up the skills I needed to write articles, fix photos, design posters or search the internet for wacky kitten videos quickly. My brother, about six years older than me, got through school long before “cyber” was a word and hates computers to this day. Our dad, bless him, tried hard to adapt, but never got beyond playing Solitaire or checking, with extreme difficulty, his e-mail on his laptop. My mom never even got that far along in the process. I feel lucky I am reasonably tech-savvy, but have the background in old, analog ways. I wonder if anyone under 18 today could find an answer any question about science, history or pretty much anything else besides BTS if Siri stopped answering or Google went on holiday.

We didn’t have it easy, but then again, it wasn’t a battle. My parents both were youth in Europe during WWII. That’s hardship and stress. We on the other hand, had to live with the sword of Reagan and Gorbachev’s missiles hanging over us, which was stressful but there was always food to be had, electricity for the lights and despite the fears, no big wars materialized to worry about. We were however, the first generation of “latchkey kids.” For the first time, most women were working and one-parent households were common, so I wasn’t unusual in often coming home to an empty house after school. Like so many others of my peers, that was OK. It gave us a bit of freedom to grow, and more importantly, let us learn real quickly how to make a dinner, or wash our clothes. We walked or rode our bikes to school…yes, yes, you know, in the snow, uphill both ways!… and had our own legs and our friends to rely on. We got part-time jobs as soon as we could to buy our own records and snacks and if we were real lucky and smooth, use the funds to go on dates with. It astonishes me to go by a neighborhood school these days and see cars backed up around the block waiting to get their ten and twelve year olds and drive them immediately home, where they will stay, playing video games, until it’s time to drive them back to class the next morning. Where will their sense of adventure or independence arise from? Will it ever arise, for that matter?

Well that’s my grumpy old, thankful rant for this day, now that we Gen X-ers are getting up there … tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” in case you’re keeping track. So how about you? Are you happy you were born when you were? What is your generation’s best feature? Whatever it is, I hope you’re thankful to be you.

13 Replies to “Thankful Thursday XXXI – Talking About My Generation”

  1. I’m happy to have been born when I was born. I think that the electronic age of today is what Tolstoy wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I grew up playing outside all day and my kids caught the tail end of it. Kids born in 1990 or after probably have little nature appreciation but all kinds of tech savvy. It’s hard to get the 90’s and after born kids too interested in saving the planet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. I meant to get to that, but it was already long enough. We went outside when the weather was OK (sometimes when it wasn’t too) to have fun, were healthier for it and even those who didn’t directly gain an appreciation for nature, probably got a better idea of the surroundings and value of things like parks and bike trails.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Their sense of adventure is gone but…the parents can be the fault and the modern environment of being scared to let your kids roam like we did…but getting back to your point…who knows if the kid would want to roam.
    As you know…i tend to go with the music of the generation before us BUT…we did have access…not in real time but access. We did have it easier than our parents but most generations do. We did have the cold war and right when we got to uh…a healthy teenage age…Aids popped up…

    We are the last generation to roam free and not come back home until dinner time…I’m so glad we didn’t go home and play video games, chat on phones, and we had to actually LEARN things at a place called the library…not type it in and get an easy answer. When you work for something it tends to stick with you longer.

    So even though I like the previous music better I loved other things we did have…freedom…freedom to do things wrong or right and not get bullied because of it…at least we got some of the 70s and the entire 80s when life was a little more simple.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah, I agree entirely. I figure our generation is largely to blame for the faults of the young generation now …and i don’t mean you and Jen, or me personally, but our age group. Like you say, we grew up that way but for some reason think it’s too dangerous for our kids to walk two city blocks to the school or store, or else that they deserve such an easy life that they never have to set foot in cold weather or rain. Doesn’t make for a generation of go-getters.

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      1. Well we are part of it…is some of the reason because of media 24/7 and NOW things get reported? I mean back in the 40s-50s perverts would hang out at regular movie theaters…but yea….I wouldn’t let Bailey go anywhere walking by himself.

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      2. Yes, that’s very true. And Amber Alerts…great idea, bad in practice. I get woken up about twice a week by phone screaming an alarm. Most of time someone over 200 miles away, and generally kids taken by a parent w/o authorization or teenagers who’ve run away on their own. But it sure scares some parents into thinking kids are being pulled out of their mother’s arms daily.

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      3. You said it…the scared parent in general. My parents were not scared that someone would swipe me…I ran into some shady people out there but I knew what and what not to do.

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      4. exactly. I mean, at risk of minimalizing the problem, how many children are really kidnapped by strangers in a given year? Very few it seems, probably less than in the past because kids are more street-savvy and there are surveillance cameras everywhere now. Not to minimize the horror of events like that when they do occur, but it really doesn’t seem like a reason to keep kids indoors on a sunny Sunday afternoon or say they cannot walk three blocks to school in the morning with a couple of friends.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. That is so true. Now when it does happen it’s thrown into our faces every day. Back then we usually only knew about it when it happened local (Marcia Trimble here)…not in another state. I remember when that happened…mom talked to me and kept an eye on me for a week…then it was over…back to playing regularly.

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      6. actually where I grew up, there was a young teen girl who was abducted and killed while she was out jogging early one morning. In high school I became friends with her brother, I didn’t know them when it happened though. It was terrible (and as much as I am all for kids being out having fun and going outside, a 13 or 14 year old girl running along semi-rural roads by herself at sunrise probably isn’t a good idea) … but I only recall maybe three or four such occurences in the entire Toronto area in my 30-plus years there watching the news. By comparison, I think at least four kids in our high school died in car accidents in the time I was there alone.

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      7. There is always some nutcase out there but now…I would say people are more educated so in a way…it should be a little safer? I’m just using theory which may not work here I don’t know. Are there more nutballs now?

        Even then a girl alone was not a good idea. Trimble was 9 and selling girl scout cookies in a nice neighborhood. They just caught the guy in 2008…and it happened in 74 or 75.
        I will say that teen suicides are way up now…I don’t remember one when I went to school. I contribute that to some of Social Media bullying. Now you are embarrassed in front of the whole world but that is a different subject. Yes we had car accidents also.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Your last paragraph is so true… for all the technical advances and the fancy toys the kids have and the “protection” from going outside and so on, it’s an extremely unhappy generation. Suicide is common, or at least too common, and it seems it’s almost trendy for 15 year olds to say they are mentally ill and need to be on meds for it. So whatever the cause (I agree, social media is a biggie), their lives can’t be judged to be as good as our generation’s 40 or so years back.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. No with all of the advancements its more confusing if anything. I think we got to be ourselves more than kids today do…Parents now read or do things differently…the kids are with their parents more than they are with their age group.

        Liked by 1 person

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