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Published: Sunday, 2/2/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

TOLEDO MAGAZINE

Two decades of people, events, and trends that shaped Gen X-ers

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

How do you define a generation — especially one as often mislabeled, misjudged, and misunderstood as Generation X?

I suggest you start with the murder of John Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980, followed only months later by the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, and end with the failed Apocalypse of the Y2K bug on Dec. 31, 1999.

That's a nearly two-decade run of iconic moments with bookends of death, tragedy, and an overblown tech malfunction. And Baby Boomers wonder why we're cynical.

Some of those milestones that shaped us in the 1980s and 1990s are included in the above illustration in the categories of culture, politics, technology, and events. And while we all shared in the heartbreak of 9/11 and the tumult of the Great Recession, the first two decades in the new millennium belong those who came after us — the Millenials.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see photos of the people and moments that shaped Gen X

The 1960s and '70s belong to our parents. They were decades of transformation and social upheaval, followed by the excessive celebrations of those new freedoms, and it was their children who most often shouldered the consequences of those years.

Generation X, those born roughly in and between the years 1965 and 1980, are "latchkey kids" who grew up in an era of increasing divorce, safe sex and AIDS, and anti-drug crusades.

We're also the first truly tech generation: We grew up with video games, came of age with the personal computer, jumped on the information superhighway when it opened, via dial-up, and helped to drive the dot.com bubble of the mid-'90s, only to watch it burst before the decade was finished.

Like the Baby Boomers before us, our decades gave us a trademark and cultural identity through music (rap, grunge/alternative), movies (Breakfast Club, Singles), TV (MTV, The Simpsons), and literature (Generation X, Watchmen).

And like our parents, we lost some of our own icons far too soon (Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix, Tupac Shakur).

So how do you sum all this up?

The Grateful Dead offered the line "What a long, strange trip it's been" about their experiences on the road.

While that sentiment is applicable to Generation X in the 1980s and 1990s, the band's lyric was long ago co-opted by Baby Boomers as emblematic of their own passage through time.

Instead, I offer a simple line from Cobain and Nirvana to encapsulate our generational experiences — an ironic lyric with more insight to Gen-Xers than any marketing scheme or media trope: "Oh well, whatever, never mind."

Contact Kirk Baird at: kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.


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