Boomers and X’ers

We find them uptight and overly worried about the tiny details of their small everyday lives. They worked so hard for it all, the promises they were given. Through the 1980’s when they sailed past the gas-rationing times of the ’70s. Buying up lake houses and boats and Ford’s or GM’s or Chrysler’s latest models. On the employee discount plan, of course.

They worked so hard for it all. For us. They sent us to college, hoping that we’d be able to do something more interesting than manually inspect a plastic, injection-molded bumper for 10 or 12 hours a day. They did it all for themselves, but they also did it for us.

We did our times as desk jockeys in the ’90s. Ran up our credit cards. Paid our rent. Bought a shit-ton of CDs and DVDs. And years later, when the money drained out of this web like quicksand, we were left with dubious college degrees, memories of corporate suites and bonus plans, and way too many boxes of stuff that makes our friends not want to help us move. We rent a U-Haul truck and bribe them with beer and pizza. Our older relatives who still keep paper address books scratch out or erase, and write in our updated addresses again and again. Some still use Wite-Out. The build-up from four moves in five years layers up like bad coats of paint.

We find them uptight and too worried. We love them but they make us nuts.

They find us self-centered and cynical. Failures for not carrying on their ways. For not staying in the towns where we were raised, for not having kids early. For not making the grandchildren that were going to be the comfort of their older ages. At least, not early enough. For not making enough money to justify our college educations, or at least to pay for those frighteningly large student loan debts.

But what they don’t want to admit is that the rules of the games have changed. Almost entirely. A college education does not guarantee a great career, or even steady work. Having children does not provide automatic happiness. And following the rules and traditions of your elders can bring as much worry and misery as carving your own path can bring freedom and possibilities. For what? We’re still looking.

There’s a price for this freedom. At its best we like to walk stoned through our days, not worrying about much of anything. Or, at least feeling half-stoned. Not seeking to numb the pain, but believing that there is not really any pain at all. Their generation said it their own way, but through those middle-aged decades they seem to have lost sight of it. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. But that line needs interpretation. Is this a plus, or a minus? Looking ahead with excitement, for what might be next to come? Or hunkering down in scared defense, of what you’ve already gained?

They are angry, but they won’t say it like that. They are angry that no one told them that the success and prosperity they devoted their lives to would feed and clothe them, and give them a nest in their later years. But in other ways, they’d be as restless and hungry as we are.

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11 Comments

  1. I’m with you Joy. I think by 2050 the American Boomers will be legendary as far as being lucky and secure. We will either be a footnote as the beginning of the end of empire or a lost generation before some sort of crazy Star Trek world. The world is shrinking fast. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Lost Generation. Like Fitzgerald’s in the ’20s. I’ve thought that before, and one of the many reasons I’ve loved his work. What trips me up about current retirees is that it doesn’t seem they realize just how (fiscally) lucky they are to be carrying their hard-earned prosperity over into this age. Or, maybe it’s uncomfortable and embarrassing to nice folks who see others struggling, when all they wanted to do was relax and enjoy the golden years. I suppose that’s what is tricky about planning and living for any future. We really never do know just what exactly that future will be.

    I had a good conversation with N. this week about how flippant and cynical our generation was in some ways, about this future that we’re now in (say, looking back 20-ish years). Crabby over coffee I said, “It’s worse than we imagined.” But since then, I’ve rethought that a bit. Dunno. Maybe at those young ages it was a future reality impossible even to imagine with our innocence and lack of experience. Thoughts?

  3. I was absolutely blind too. Maybe that’s the bravado we need to be young and get started. And now in a sense, I feel that it wouldn’t have mattered much which decisions I made (stay at that job, take another, change directions, etc). Things could have worked out in various ways anyway, and a lot of it has been beyond my (our) control. A very different worldview than what they enjoyed in their times, and in the first parts of ours.

    And – love the Daffy Duck comparison. I’ll bet being a contractor in that situation could make a great book too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. AH. Yes. I almost bought in 2000 too, had the earnest money in before I heard I was to be a T.A. .. was saved by grad school/new “job” as a comp teacher. ha! what’s given me a shaky career also accidentally saved me from the housing market dive. What’s changed in the year after that, and since, is really something to look back at now.

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