Generation X
© 2017 John F. Rychlicki III Leilah Publications
All rights reserved.

GenXers could learn from and follow the example of previous generations, not just of hard work, but doing what you love in life.  Each generation hopes to hand their child’s generation a better life than they lived.  The parents and grandparents of Generation X already have their defining history and stories to tell.  Grandpa grew up during the depression, and served in World War II.  My mother remembers where she was when President Kennedy was shot; she remembers the Vietnam War and Watergate.

So who is Generation X?  What has defined our generation?  Generation X remembers when music mattered and changed the world, and yes, we actually paid for our music!  We remember Perestroika, and Glasnost, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the original Star Wars trilogy, hairspray and moose, VCRs, the US Olympic Men’s Hockey Team beating the Soviets, blockbuster films of the 1980s, Rocky, the Challenger disaster, MTV, Atari, Ferris Bueller, Guns n’ Roses, Big Hair bands, Who Shot JR?!, 1980s television sitcoms, Comic Relief, and many other icons that remain X-memories.

Some of us were just born when the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were under construction.  We never had iPhones, iPads, Android phones, cell phones, or any phones that were “smart.” No caller ID – if the phone rang in my home, you took a chance!  It could be anyone!  We actually had to program a VCR and hoped it actually recorded what it was supposed to?  CDs, iTunes, and MP3s?

Get real kid.  If you wanted to record a song you had to buy the cassette tape, and rewind the thing just to play that one favorite song again and again.  If the tape broke, you were screwed.  Or you camped out in front of the radio trying to record your song, hoping the DJ would shut up and not talk through the first 45 seconds and ruin it.  We did not have cell phones, or text messaging.  If we were not home by six o’clock, we were in deep shit.  Facebook, YouTube, and DirectTV?  Nonsense, we actually talked to our friends in person!

We went outside and text messaging consisted of our parents yelling from down the street to get our asses home.  Even our parents’ friends had permission to smack us.  Nowhere was safe!  If you wanted to date a girl, you actually….had to go up to her, approach her…and ask her to her face!  Social media was you and your friends going to the mall – to meet everyone else and gossip.  Twitter was passing notes during class, then lunch during high school.

Generation X is not taking anyone’s shit.  We remember the Cold War.  We remember the Challenger disaster that took the lives of seven brave souls including the first teacher journeying to space; we remember rock music, not Napster and iTunes, when bands had to perform live to make it.  We remember the Reagan economy, and the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall which gave us all hope for a better world.   Now … Generation X are parents today.  Generation X is tired; we have to be up early in the morning.  Generation X wonders if we will have social security, where our 30s went, and is there still time to catch up?  Right now Generation X wants to sit down for a minute quietly and think.  Can we do that?  Just for a minute?

Right now Generation X is worried.  Generation X is worried about our future and our kids.  Baby Boomers, World War II generation, you had your time.  This is our time.  Generation X probably should have posted all this to Facebook.  No, to hell with that.  Generation X is going to write a book and you’re going to shut up and read.  Generation X needed you to support our works and our clients so we can travel more before we die.  Remember, parents and grandparents; Generation X has saved the world.  We’re not done yet.

Generation X saved the world and made it cool again.  We do not need Facebook pages, or T-shirts, or other social media memes to tell you how cool we are.  My generation is ungraciously sandwiched between the Baby Boomers (our parents, we do love them) moaning about Social Security cuts; and the Millennials, or ‘Generation Y’ whining about how life is so unfair, the world is “sooo messed up.”  To both preceding and succeeding generations, I will not offer a “thank you for the wisdom” or “good luck out there Yers,” I say to the Boomers and Millennials – get real.

Generation Xers are facing the possibility of Social Security insolvency, and no Medicare or Medicaid.  Who is going to take care of us when we reach retirement age?  The whiney spoiled ungrateful Millennials who cannot unglue themselves from their digital reality-life on their smart phones and social media networks?

We are the middle child in this generational rivalry.  The Boomers are the self-righteous firstborn, and the Millennials are the spoiled rotten younger sibling.  We are the forgotten middle child, our successes and tragedies overlooked in this generational tug-of-war.  The Millennials are today’s teens and twenty-something’s, lamenting about the dismal job market and how the world could be handed to them in such a chaotic state.

These digital Yers just love gadgets and digital stuff – Apple, plasma screens, smart phones, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.  They love to see themselves as pseudo-celebrities starring in their own reality-shows.  They love celebrities. They love social media. They love brand names . . . and follow trends rather than set them. Millennials are happy to do whatever advertising tells them to. They cannot manage to read anything longer than an instant message!

Xers like me grew up in Reagan America, witnessed the rise of Wall Street and the Internet, and the burst of the dot-com bubble.  We survived Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. We will approach mid-life in the era of President Trump.  We heard about John F. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon from our Baby Boomer parents.  We earned our money before the Internet, while Millennials easily enjoy the fruits of making money via social media.  Having a YouTube channel is not a job, despite what some spoiled millennial e-celebs think.  In the era of YouTube views, self-publishing, and Facebook pages, money and fame are easy to come by.  Sometimes all it takes is a sex tape or cover song.  Generation Xers now echo the self-righteous scolding of our Boomer parents: we had to work for our money, and we made money the old fashioned way; we earned it.

“Generation X” was first coined and later disowned by Douglas Coupland, author of the 1991 book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. Coupland signified the letter ‘X’ for what he perceived as our generation’s random, ambiguous contradiction.  By 2014, 70 million Baby Boomers will have reached retirement age, while Generation X will assume leadership positions in the  world.

My generation has produced several Internet millionaires, but Census Bureau estimates have Generation X men grossing less income than our fathers did at our ages.  Economic recessions are not unfamiliar to us, since we have crawled out of the economic wreckage of the past eight years.  Many of us managed to salvage entrepreneurship from the dot-com meltdowns of the 1990s and the disaster of the Bush Presidency.

Generation X has traveled the world whether on scholarships, savings, academic programs, tax refunds, or paid medical research stipends; we are the poverty jet-setters.  Media stereotypes in GenXer films like “Singles,” “Reality Bites,” and “Clerks” painted a picture of Generation Xers as overeducated underachievers, slackers and losers.  Yet we defy all cultural and social demographic; we always defy the economic odds, which always seem against my generation.

The sheer scope of political, international, economic and environmental disasters that have occurred over the course of our lifetimes leaves Generation X with no choice but to begin to go about the business of saving the world from itself, and in the process, making it cool again.

Similar to mafia “cleaners” who remove bullet-riddled bodies and ‘clean’ up bloody aftermaths of mob business, Generation Xers are the cleaners of the bloody social & cultural wreckage left behind by the environmental, political, international, and economic mafia-level policies of the George W. Bush presidency.  Generation X is like ‘Winston Wolfe’ from Quentin Tarantino’s hit “Pulp Fiction.”  We solve problems.

The most influential websites today, YouTube, Google, and Amazon.com come from minds who sought to bring the world and more to your PC, Mac, or iPad; GenXers have reinvented global business, and changed forever the way the world interacts and does business.  Whether or not we have changed the world through something as technologically macro as Google, or Amazon.com, Generation Xers’ influence on American culture is from its social shadows.

Xer change comes from the margins from beyond any and all demographics.  Our revolutions are being downloaded and uploaded live.  The Obama Generation is not a censure on any generation.  It is one of many messages of Generation X, telling you that yes; we have taken over the world and saved it.  We made it cool again and we’re not done.  You didn’t get that “Tweet” did you?