Take this narrative and…

Making the rounds of news and blogs is this shocking new study: The Generation X Report.

What makes it so shocking?  Well, apparently those of us who were born between 1961 and 1981 are not the “insecure, angst ridden” underachievers everyone expects us to be.  We’re not “detached and melancholic.”  And we are not, as a group, “slackers.”

Here’s the thing – in my experience, we never were.

Insert the standard caveats about how the plural of anecdote is not data and how this is just my experience, but let me lay the early 90’s out from my own perspective.  I, along with almost everyone my own age that I knew, was having a really hard time finding any sort of “meaningful” work – for the values of meaningful that include: interesting, somewhat secure, decently paying, and carrying any sort of benefits.*  So what did we do?  We worked whatever way we could.  We took jobs as temps, waiters, and bartenders.  We often worked two jobs or more.  We added whatever seasonal jobs we could on top of that.  We made every effort to prove ourselves, to wedge our way into something resembling a decent opportunity.*  Some of us, including me, went back to school to try to improve our chances of getting decent work and hopefully to wait out the bad economic times.*

For this, the media labeled us “slackers.”*  I really don’t know if it was because the generation(s) before us didn’t like the fact that we were overwhelmingly employed in the service industry (most of us didn’t have a choice) or the fact that a lot of us resigned ourselves as best we could to the lifestyle we had at the time (we did have a choice about that, but the alternative was to be miserable).  Most of us didn’t seem to react much to the “slacker” label either.  Maybe that irritated the prior generation(s) as well.  But why should we care what names we were called by the very people who pulled the treehouse ladder up behind them?  Or maybe we were just working too damn hard at our 2+ jobs and worrying too much about getting sick and having to declare bankruptcy from our medical bills* to be worried about whether or not the editors of Time magazine thought us lazy.

So, I’m glad that a longitudinal study says that the majority of us are “active, balanced, and happy” these days.  But it doesn’t surprise me overmuch, considering most of us were at least active and balanced and working on happy during the very era we were painted as a bunch of disaffected, mopey losers.


*Does any of this sound familiar?  Current, even?


  1. I really think that the beliefs about Gen X are driven by the Boomers’ insecurities. They are our parents and our parents’ friends and there are more of them than there are of us. They don’t understand our reality and wonder why we don’t make the choices they made. Since we were out trying to get by rather than shouting in the streets they labelled us “slackers.” We were too busy and not as numerous, so our voice was never heard. Then the media moved on to the “millenials.” I think that in terms of the public sphere, we are the lost generation.

  2. @loather btw, reminded of something I wrote a few years ago: http://t.co/ctQiBmR3GE