As if those of us in our 40s needed another jarring reminder that we’re officially middle-aged, April 5 marks the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death.
And with that glass of ice-cold reality to the face, welcome to the second half of your life, Generation X.
Was it really that long ago that those of us born in the years roughly 1965 through 1980 were slackers moping on college campuses, hampered by cynicism and apathy?
How the years have mellowed us and altered that media-fostered generality. At this juncture in our generational journey we’re the paradigm of institutional normality: married with families, mortgages, and car payments; career-minded but beginning to concern ourselves with the post-employment years.
In other words, Gen-Xers became responsible and grew up, like our parents and grandparents before us.
But where are we headed? And what has our journey meant to us so far? We asked a diverse group of eight area Gen-Xers these questions and many others via email:
● Tonya Rider, 43, a crimes against persons detective in the Toledo Police Department, who is married with no children.
● Ben Malczewski, 37, humanities department manager at the Toledo-Lucas County Main Library, who is married with a daughter.
● Ursula Barrera-Richards, 36, director of the Lucas County Auditor’s Office, who is married with one daughter, pregnant with a second child, and a stepmother to a teenage boy.
● Michelle Boose, 35, a physician who is single.
● Beth Ferne Johnson, 44, pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Sylvania, who is married with two children.
● Esther Fabian, 43, associate vice president for branding and creative services at the University of Toledo, who is married with one daughter.
● Wade Kapszukiewicz, 41, Lucas County treasurer and chairman of the Lucas County Land Bank, who is married with two children.
● Sidney Childs, 46, executive director TRIO programs office at Bowling Green State University, who is married with a daughter.
While not everyone in the group answered every question, the entirety of their responses was far too large for The Blade’s print version. Online, of course, is a different matter. This is the complete transcript of their answers to 17 questions about Generation X, along with additional comments offered by a few of them.
1. What does the term “Generation X” mean to you?
Ms. Tonya Rider: To me Generation X means … individuals that possess the perfect blend of experience and enthusiasm.
Mr. Ben Malczewski: I'm certainly aware of the popular terms used to describe and specifically generalize Gen X, but to me, when I hear it, I think less in words than in images -- it's kind of a montage flash of music videos, news events, TV, movies - really the cultural side. Which makes sense; life experiences are visual, all this was part of my life, and I think of Gen X very much as the TV/video generation, or even further, the pop culture generation.
Ms. Ursula Barrera-Richards: It's such a general label and not as positive as "The Greatest Generation," which inspires awe and respect, or "Millennial," which inspires hope and endless possibilities.
Dr. Michelle Boose: Generation X means that I belong to a generation of people that is too diverse and
individually unique to define by a single catchphrase. I like that!
Pastor Beth Ferne Johnson: The term “Generation X” refers to those born during a certain timeframe (early ’60s to early ’80s). We’ve been called many things, but I think we’re a generation of lowered expectations.
Ms. Esther Fabian: It means MTV, disco to grunge, independent kids turned super-involved parents, perceived apathetic slackers.
Mr. Wade Kapszukiewicz: The Replacements wrote a song about Generation X in the mid-1980s, and it has a line in it that I think captures the attitude of our generation pretty well. Speaking of the Baby Boom generation, the line is: "Unwillingness to claim us, they've got no word to name us." Some people think the line is: "They've got no war to name us." In any case, the sentiment is the same -- while previous generations were defined by major conflicts and social change (WWI generation, WWII generation, Baby Boom generation), our generation wasn't born into such a time. Quite literally, we were nameless. As such, we had to make our own identity.
Mr. Sidney Childs: A generation who is so diverse in terms of how we viewed and engaged one another in the world, it was hard to find a label for us.
2. Are you bothered by having a name that represents us as a “great unknown”?
Ms. Rider: No, I'm not bothered by that definition because "great unknown" could easily have a positive connotation; for instance, my generation's potential is unknown as in unlimited.
Mr. Malczewski: No. Or I should say, that if it is a terminal definition then yes - as if this generation has been boxed without hope of "escape" or ability to grow (just drifting and wandering without hope of reprieve) - but otherwise I'm comfortable with that; I see it as an open-ended journey that allows us to write our own narrative. Who wants to be so absolutely typecast and predictably defined? Where's the fun in that?
Ms. Barrera-Richards: We were unknown when the term was coined in the [’90s]. We weren't defined by a war or great national sacrifice or the dawn of a new millennium. We hadn't been figured out … yet.
Dr. Boose: It’s not something I take personally, but I don’t feel my generation is as mysterious
as the term “Generation X” applies. (See response to Question One).
Pastor Johnson: A little, but I think it fits because we are a bit of an enigma. We straddle a huge gap in birth years; one that could almost be two generations.
We have seen huge changes — especially in technology. I was one of the first students I knew
in college to have my own computer in my dorm room — and my own dot matrix printer! I was
no longer dependant upon the hours the library computers were available. I remember hearing
my parents talk about having to retype a whole paper because of a mistake embedded in an
early page. We had come so far — and now — you can speak a paper and have the technology do the typing for you!
We’ve also straddled the gap in terms of perceptions of safety. When I was growing up, my
sister and I biked all over town — to the library, city pool, piano lessons, etc. We didn’t think
twice about having that freedom. Today, even with cell phones to keep in touch, parents would
probably think twice about allowing their kids to be their own transportation.
We are a generation dealing with insecurity, too. We’re the first generation where divorce
was not a stigma, but became commonplace. We’re the first to be assured that Social Security
may not be there in its current form. We also see that we may not have as much disposable
income as our parents and grandparents. After Columbine and 9/11, our sense of security has
been undercut as well.
We’ve seen huge changes in terms of access to information and entertainment. I remember
vividly being so excited to see Star Wars premier on network TV because it had been several
years since I saw it in the theater. That kind of anticipation is foreign to my kids. Information
we used to have to go to the library and physically look up is now available in seconds wherever
we happen to be.
The world has opened up for us. Growing up, a multicultural child was the product of
a marriage between a German-American and an Italian-American! I know so many first-generation Americans — more than my parents ever have. You can play games with people
across the world, in real time.
We are tackling environmental issues — we are the first recycling generation. We’ve made
vegetarianism almost mainstream. It’s our job to ignore or correct the environmental excesses
of previous generations.
Ms. Fabian: Not at all. We were stuck between our free-loving, speak-your-mind parents and the burst of life-changing technology. How could anybody know what would become of us?
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: No, because I think it gives us a chance to chart our own course and make our own impact on the world. Our name suggests we're a bit of a blank slate -- and the beauty of a blank slate is that you can sketch on it whatever you choose.
Mr. Childs: Not at all. Because I do not agree with being defined as an "unknown"
3. What about the persistent stereotypes about our generation as being apathetic slackers who are moody, cynical, and disengaged?
Ms. Rider: I think that there are those in each generation that could be characterized as moody, cynical, and disengaged. I do not believe those characteristics are inherent in any one generation. With regard to the Generation Xers ... that I associate with and encounter professionally, we all tend to lean more toward being liberated, forward-thinking individuals who are comfortable in their own skin.
Mr. Malczewski: It bothers me that it seems -- at least initially -- there is a tendency to be reductive when defining a generation (as opposed to deconstructive -- revealing essence), as if chided for how they differ from the previous group, so there is a negative connotation or a more negative-sounding synonymic slant taken (which perhaps speaks more to the labelers than the labelees). Why not "discerning," "cautious," "measured," or "analytical?" But instead we get "jaded" and "cynical." Surely these terms were identified as resultant responses we might feel from having witnessed certain events or from breathing the cultural air and appropriating a general mood or outlook. But if the timeframe in which I was born is defined by events with a common theme of exposure, revelation, or humility (Clinton scandal, Catholic Church sexual abuse cover-ups, Berlin Wall falling, Challenger exploding, 9/11, etc.) who wouldn't emerge existentially affected? That said, I think cynicism is positively a check and balance to naiveté.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: That is how we were represented by social scientists and the media in the ’90s but we've grown up. I have not felt that the slacker, disengaged label was appropriate post-’90s. We want to balance it all, which is quite ambitious: career, family, volunteerism. Civic involvement.
Dr. Boose: I think that’s an unfortunate misrepresentation of our generation. Many of us are
making a conscious effort to leave the world around us better than how we found it. Just because the good we’re doing isn’t being publicized doesn’t mean it’s not occurring.
Pastor Johnson: I don’t think that this stereotype has been true. We don’t have the prestige of the WWII and Baby Boomer generation — maybe because we don’t have an anchor event that defines us. For the “Greatest Generation” surviving the Great Depression and the war itself became the event that united them. The Baby Boomers had the civil rights struggle. At the time, I thought 9/11 would be such an event for us, but looking back on it, it doesn’t have the same power and urgency.
Ms. Fabian: I don't really hear that anymore. Especially as a parent. Our generation of parents, I believe, works more and, at the same time, is more involved with our families. And, while we were young adults, we may have been much more apathetic than our parents' generation, but I think we are much more active politically and socially now.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: That was certainly the stereotype when we were in our 20s, watching The Simpsons, and listening to grunge music. But I'm not sure those labels are as accurate anymore now that we've grown up, gotten married, and started families. I think it's still true that we aren't as trusting of major institutions (the media, the government, etc.) than our parents and grandparents were, but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing.
Mr. Childs: It simply was not true. In my opinion, this view is misconstrued. The generation before us, [their] approach [to] life was "do as I say not as I do" and my generation challenged this notion and as a result, there was a loss of credibility in the Boomers and in some cases those from the Silent Generation.
4. Do you feel like you’re part of this generation, that you fit in?
Ms. Rider: Yes, I feel that I fit in with this generation and share many of its positive attributes such as having a good work ethic, being goal oriented, and possessing a willingness to try new things.
Mr. Malczewski: My dilemma, and maybe this only further roots me within the grouping, is that when you are "in" something it becomes difficult to see where your identity begins and your generational qualities end -- "am I contrarian or is this a generational trait?" Plus, I've always been sensitive to encapsulation and I've resisted any thing "organized" -- I cringe at the formalism. But as I get older I've started -- maybe because there's a new generation on the hot seat -- I've started to see and accept where I differ, but also what traits others my age share.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: Absolutely. I feel lucky because we experienced cultural shifts and were conscientious about it: we read and studied out of books; then became adept at technology. We appreciate and use proper grammar, but can now text with the best of them. We personally experienced MTV when it was awesome and alternatively, we saw the behemoth of reality TV and knew it would be the start of something terrible.
Dr. Boose: Even though I was born at the tail end of Gen X, I still feel very much a part of it. At
the same time, however, I grew up during the beginning of the Millennial generation, so there’s a part of me that can relate to that generation as well.
Pastor Johnson: I don’t always feel like I fit the labels of Generation X — maybe because I’m on the earlier end of it.
Ms. Fabian: Definitely.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: I don't think I fit all the stereotypes, and certainly not the ones about being apathetic and disengaged. I've voted in every election since I turned 18 and was first elected to public office when I was 23. That's about as engaged as you can get. However, I know I am a part of Generation X, and I still have a closet full of flannel shirts to prove it. (If only they still fit me!) In March of 1992, my sophomore year in college, I saw Pearl Jam at the Marquette Alumni Memorial Union. I remember they played "Jeremy" and "Even Flow," and I remember that Jimmy Chamberlin from the Smashing Pumpkins was helping that night on drums. If that doesn't make me a part of Generation X, I don't know what else could.
Mr. Childs: I think I vacillate between Generation X and the Baby Boomers because my parents were born in the Silent Generation and I think I took on much of the characteristics of the Boomers, which was to challenge authority.
5. What’s the biggest misperception about Generation X?
Ms. Rider: In my opinion, the biggest misconception is that Generation Xers are disengaged. I think that we are engaged, interesting, and vital. Many, like myself, have careers that they have had for many years and are excited about the possibility of pursuing second careers at a relatively young age.
Mr. Malczewski: That we've not evolved past the initial "half-empty" perspective. Perhaps there was initially an ineffectiveness in our teens and college years (which, I'd argue is common for that age anyways), but I feel we've rallied past indifference and have become extremely passionate idealists and activists.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: The slacker cliché.
Dr. Boose: The biggest misconception about Gen X is that we don’t want to grow up, and/or are uncertain about what we want to do with our lives.
Pastor Johnson: I think it’s the image of Generation X as slackers. Maybe this perception was closer to being accurate during our college years as people I knew at large schools had trouble graduating in four years. Given the recent recession, any entitlements we may have thought were ours have vanished. We’ve come to realize that we have to rely on ourselves.
Ms. Fabian: Hmmm. I don’t know that generations that came before us realize just how much we do. So many of my peers work full time, have multiple children, coach their kids’ teams, are involved in their churches, and do volunteer work on top of that.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: I think the biggest misperception is that we're a bunch of lazy slackers. I know I'm not a lazy slacker, and I don't think fellow Gen X-ers Marissa Mayer (the president and CEO of Yahoo!), Paul Ryan (2012 VP candidate), Julian Assange (editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks) and Tina Fey (actress, writer, and producer) are either.
Mr. Childs: That we are loners [when] in fact we value community. We just know how to discern very well whether a person is being authentic or not.
6. What’s the defining attribute of our generation?
Ms. Rider: I think there are two defining attributes: flexibility and resiliency.
Mr. Malczewski: I think it's our ability to process and deal. In our youth I think we were frustrated ("Smells like teen spirit?"), but as we've gotten older this cynicism has evolved into stoicism and I think inasmuch we are highly analytical and logic-driven. Being sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials further affects this unique perspective; for example, we've seen the shift from analog to digital from the ground floor up and understand it - from DOS to tablets essentially. We neither have the mysticism with technology that Baby Boomers do (having VCRs with clocks?! appear out of nowhere), nor the inability to even conceive of or navigate the world without it like MIllennials, and I think there's great wisdom in that perspective. Maybe our version of the walk-to-school-through-6 feet of-snow-uphill-both-ways-story will be "back in my day it took upwards of 7 clicks to complete a purchase online."
Ms. Barrera-Richards: Adaptability.
Dr. Boose: One way I have connected to others within my generation, as well as with other generations is through my passion for music. Generation X gave birth to hip hop, whose influence is seen throughout the worldwide.
Pastor Johnson: I’m not sure we have one.
Ms. Fabian: I think it's the bridge we span. We lived before laptops, texting, and Facebook, but we know how to use this stuff. We still know how to talk to people on the phone and write thank-you notes.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: I think if you could only pick one attribute it would have to be cynicism. But keep in mind, our generation grew up in the immediate aftermath of the turbulent 1960s and the political disillusionment caused by Watergate and Vietnam. We grew up in broken homes with divorced parents whose jobs were just starting to be affected by globalization of the world economy. It shouldn't be surprising that we are cynical, and cynicism isn't always bad. It's often better to question institutions than to have blind faith in them.
Mr. Childs: Being entrepreneurial and flexible.
7. What are the defining historical moments for our generation?
Ms. Rider: A few historical moments that stand out to me for our generation are the 9/11 bombings and the way in which we as a country and specifically a generation subsequently related to one another. Also, the increase of diversity in the workplace, politics, and the media has grown by historical proportions during my generation.
Mr. Malczewski: In terms of traditional happenings, I'd say Columbine, Princess Di, Berlin Wall, Challenger, Clinton/Lewinsky, 9/11, and the Catholic Priest sexual abuse. But in terms of what has really affected the gait of my existence, I'd say it's the birth (and pervasiveness of) the 24-hour news cycle, the ubiquity of connectivity, and the resulting "enhancement," for better or worse, of our lives.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: Techno Boom.
Dr. Boose: The debut of music television stations like MTV, BET, and VH1, ’80s AIDS epidemic, the Challenger explosion, tearing down the Berlin wall, the end of Apartheid in South Africa, September 11.
Pastor Johnson: Mt. St. Helens explosion, Challenger accident, Reagan’s assassination attempt, fall of the Berlin Wall, HIV/AIDS, 9/11.
Ms. Fabian: Space shuttle explosion, Clinton scandal, Mandela being freed, Elvis and John Lennon dying, Reagan assassination attempt, the AIDS epidemic, Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: From my teenage years, I think of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion and the end of the Cold War. From adulthood, I would list the 9-11 attacks and the election of the nation's first African-American President. I think each one of those events, in their own way, will be remembered 100 years from now.
Mr. Childs: Space Challenger explosion, Technology Boom, and the AIDS Epidemic
8. Who -- or perhaps what -- are the best and worst representations of Generation X?
Ms. Rider: Best: The World Wide Web. Worst: The drug epidemic of the 1980s.
Mr. Malczewski: I'm naturally weary and suspicious of spokespeople or proselytizers, so I'll nominate more of a collective -- the Gen Xers who, whether instanced by world-weariness or not, have spun their apathy into action and work for social/ecological/educational/etc. reform. But even in just everyday life our generation is full of so many DIY people it’s crazy. Sure the mainstreaming of information/know-how from the Internet helps, but I think we're also proficient autodidacts -- and this may also be because our generation currently holds the most degrees. We know how to learn -- access to information has been humbled -- and we freely apply and associate the methodology.
If I must name names, though, I'd say [Quentin] Tarantino, [Jim] Jarmusch (Down by Law, Stranger than Paradise), Richard Linklater (the Before Sunrise trilogy), David Foster Wallace, Coen brothers, Simpsons, Seinfeld, X-Files. There are more to be sure, but I mention them less as specific names and more because I feel they feature a self-awareness and referential nature that is emblematic of our generation.
We didn't have a speech or speeches (like precursors) -- we have more sentences if anything (which could be a harbinger of the 140 character or less revolution to come), like "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" or "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." To pick music (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc.) is too easy. I think we were a strong TV generation. It was our babysitter in many cases and we ran the gamut from Brady Bunch kitsch to Seinfeld minutiae, even The Real World seems the precursor to the voyeurism itch we scratch with day-in-the-life reality TV shows. I think TV really excelled in our time -- perhaps from sheer exposure we became very skilled at manipulating the medium creatively and thinning the lining of the fourth wall like never before.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: Worst: The Hollywood representations - The Jay and Silent Bob era or Ethan Hawke's surly, self-important character in Reality Bites. Best: The music.
Ms. Fabian: I would have to say that it makes me cringe that hair bands are a representation of my generation (although I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t listen to them in high school).
The best representation? The everyday folks I mentioned who balance demanding jobs, kids, spouses, and parents make me proud to be a part of this generation.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: I think Kurt Cobain is both the best and worst representation of Generation X. He is the public figure most commonly associated with our generation, and for good reason. Through his music, he questioned authority and became an activist for some of the positive social change our generation created. But he was so depressed, so cynical, and so jaded (other hallmarks of Generation X) that he didn't live long enough to see the change he helped bring about.
Mr. Childs: Depending on the dates for Gen-Xers, Barack and Michelle Obama -- would be considered one of our best. Worst: Hollywood, who used our ambiguousness against us in advertising; for example, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, etc.
9. At this point, where did you expect our generation to be in the world?
Ms. Rider: Ahhh, that's a loaded question … I suppose if anything I expected our generation to be more tolerant and accepting. Depending on one's upbringing, experiences, and profession, their world view can be distorted, and therefore not open to new ideas and concepts. We can always do better.
Mr. Malczewski: At this point, where did you expect our generation to be in the world? Believe me, I'm totally fine with R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" as our generation's resident lyrical pop culture laundry list, but if I'm being honest, it always felt more "We Didn't Start the Fire" than "American Pie." I'd thought we'd have come up with something better by now … (sorry, I cannot accept "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies).
Ms. Barrera-Richards: It's not mapped out and we are OK with that.
Pastor Johnson: At this point, pretty much where we are. We’re busy raising kids, in the middle of our careers, and easing into becoming caregivers for our parents.
Ms. Fabian: When I was a teenager and young adult, I guess I didn’t expect our lives to be so crammed with stuff. I got to live pre- and post-Internet. That’s pretty awesome.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: Actually, our generation is right where I expected it to be -- just starting to take leadership roles in politics, business, science, the media, and the arts. Whatever our epitaph will be, it hasn't been written yet.
Mr. Childs: Right where we are now, to have an objective point of view to address challenges and grow our communities. Nationally, we are poised to really have an impact on the world. Many of us are positioned in organizations to lead significant change.
10. Has Generation X lived up to its potential?
Ms. Rider: I think Generation X is a work in progress. That said, based on current life spans we still have plenty of time to fulfill personal and professional goals. Our generation continues to strive towards its potential.
Mr. Malczewski: Has Generation X lived up to its potential? Sure, slackers don't have any, so anything over 0 is a plus.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: Not yet. We're only approaching or in our 40's. Plenty of time.
Pastor Johnson: Yes, I think we’re in the process of doing so. The world has become a more tolerant place. As a society we’re more aware of bullying, injustice, and inequalities — even as we struggle to end these things.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: Generation X is only now getting its chance to live up to its potential. We won't know whether or not we succeeded for probably 15-20 more years.
Mr. Childs: Absolutely, with more to come.
11. What are the bigger problems this generation has faced?
Ms. Rider: One of the biggest problems this generation has faced is unemployment due to outsourcing. Conversely, those affected have often returned to college in order to embark upon different, more rewarding careers.
Mr. Malczewski: What are the bigger problems this generation has faced? Existentially, I don't know if they are different than any generation or time in history -- to find direction/a purpose. "Locally" or more immediately, I think ecological and environmental issues have been an uphill battle -- especially convincing older generations of the magnitude (or even existence).
Ms. Barrera-Richards: The work/life balance in a troubled economy. We were adults in the dot.com boom and children in the booming ’80's. It all can change in a moment.
Pastor Johnson: Job market instability and longer times of unemployment seem to be some of our biggest
issues. My husband clearly remembers a 7th time in American history — they would do worse than other generations.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: Generation X faced problems that few other previous generations had to face. In previous generations, major institutions like the family, the government, the media, and the church were regarded sacrosanct. In the Donna Reed world that existed just before we were born, no one thought to question, for instance, whether the government's motives were pure or whether the media was telling the truth. Then, beginning with the assassinations and unrest of the 1960s and continuing through the Watergate scandal, everything began to change. Now, very few people trust government, attend church, believe the media, or attend community meetings. Nearly half of all marriages now end in divorce. This was an entirely new reality for our country, and Generation X was born right in the middle of it. Dealing with these problems and new realities went a long way toward shaping our attitudes and values, whether we were aware of it or not.
Mr. Childs: Having to overcome many of the stereotypes and not having our confidence be viewed as arrogance.
12. Where is this generation headed now that Generation X hit middle-age?
Ms. Rider: As a whole I think this generation is headed toward new and exciting futures due to their experience and willingness to embrace new opportunities.
Mr. Malczewski: Where is this generation headed now that Generation X hit middle-age? Our prime, or our neurologists for our sciatica.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: Who are you calling middle-aged?!
Dr. Boose: I think the generation as a whole can only improve as it reaches middle age. This
is a time when you reflect on the past, assess the present, and with that wisdom prepare for the future.
Pastor Johnson: We’re becoming caregivers for our parents, the Baby Boomers, even as we care for our kids, the Millennials.
Ms. Fabian: Say what? Middle age. Surely you jest!
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: It's headed the same place every other generation headed when it hit middle-age -- we're worried about our kids, worried about job security, worried about the future, worried about taking care of aging parents. The challenges are virtually the same; what remains to be seen is how we will deal with them.
Mr. Childs: In terms of dealing with the many situations in the world right now, I think people will see how resilient and flexible [is] this generation.
13. Are you bothered by all the coverage given to Baby Boomers and Millennials?
Ms. Rider: Not at all. Baby Boomers cultivate independence and work ethic in Generation Xers and Millennials challenge us to remain relevant and current.
Mr. Malczewski: No, we each have (or will have) our own inherent physical or philosophical shortcomings that will all take center stage at one point or another. And besides, at the end of the day we all have our own Trivial Pursuit editions, so who am I to complain? Justice prevails.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: No. It's a reality that the market and discussions revolve around them.
Dr. Boose: Gen X is at a disadvantage when compared to Baby Boomers and Millennials in that we are the stereotyped middle child -- often overlooked. Sometimes it feels like if the other generations simply have a birthday, all the attention and headlines will be about them.
Pastor Johnson: Until this story, I hadn’t really given it much thought. I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to labels like these because they are so overly broad.
Ms. Fabian: Maybe it’s my Gen-X apathy talking, but, no, I’m not bothered at all.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: Not at all. Twenty years ago, the coverage in the media on this topic was about the contributions made by the retiring World War II generation and the characteristics of this new group -- Generation X -- that was just reaching adulthood. I think the narrative is moving in its normal cycle. There was a lot of coverage about Generation X in the early 1990s and studies about who we were, what made us tick, what it meant for society, etc. That's what you're seeing now with the Millennials. I think it's a natural part of human nature to think about where we are going (Millennials) and where we have been (Baby Boomers). Often lost in that discussion is where we are now (Generation X).
Mr. Childs: Not particularly. I believe the world will see our value in the right and proper context in history.
14. Do you feel Generation X is largely ignored and forgotten? If so, why?
Ms. Rider: No, I think that Generation X has not been forgotten and that our generation forms a necessary bridge between the Baby Boomers and Millennials.
Mr. Malczewski: No. We're the older sibling generation right now - like how our older siblings shared the Beatles, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Marley, Steely Dan, the Band, and Dylan with us - we're doing the sharing now. And if we're not the older brothers and sisters, we're the cool aunts and uncles. A little worn, but well experienced - and still young.
Dr. Boose: See question 13. May also be due to the negative misperceptions of our generation.
Pastor Johnson: I do to some degree. I think that we’ve been busy with the stuff of life — and because we’re not a huge percentage of the population, we’ve been easy to overlook.
Ms. Fabian: Judging by the neon colors my daughter wears and her love for Michael Jackson, I’d say the impact of our generation is alive and well, at least in popular culture.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: Not really. As I said above (question No. 13), I think it is human nature for there to be a disproportionate focus on where we have been as a society ... and on where we are going. Generation X got a lot of attention when we were in our 20s, and we'll get a lot of attention again when we are in our 60s and 70s. That's the natural order of things.
Mr. Childs: No, and in typical Gen-X fashion, I am really not concerned.
15. How do you think history will judge our generation?
Ms. Rider: I think history will judge our generation as independent thinkers who were not afraid to try different things … and perhaps as a bit irreverent at times : )
Mr. Malczewski: I have no idea, and I'm not really sure I care. It doesn't mean anything to me. I've never really felt pressure to represent or uphold my generation.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: Debt and irrational exuberance: Student loans and out-of-control mortgages.
Dr. Boose: I think critics will always compare Gen X to their predecessors, but I think we are doing a good job.
Pastor Johnson: I think history will see us as the ones who rode the wave of technological change.
Ms. Fabian: I think we’ll be seen as the generation that, on a very large scale, really started to internalize tolerance. We grew up during a time of transition where ethnic, gender, and sexual-orientation differences are tolerated and supported. I’m not saying everything’s equal and perfect, but our culture has really shifted. There are words that were said on the playground when I was a kid that my daughter’s never heard (and hopefully never will).
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: Though the verdict on Generation X has not completely been written, I think it's already fair to say that history will judge us as more progressive and open-minded than earlier generations. To use just one metric, the year demographers cite as the year a majority of Generation X-ers turned 18 and gained the right to vote (1992) was also the year more liberal candidates started winning national elections. Before 1992, Republicans had won 5 of the previous 6 presidential elections. Starting with the Gen-X tipping point year of 1992, Democrats have won the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections. It's been a complete reversal, and I think the MTV-shaped values of Generation X are a big reason for this.
Mr. Childs: I believe history will really be surprised at the accomplishments of our generation and will appreciate how we "marched to the beat our own drum."
16. And how would you like Generation X to be remembered?
Ms. Rider: I would like Generation X to be remembered as the generation that continued to reinvent themselves, while embracing change.
Mr. Malczewski: If the critics are right my answer further confirms their theory that our generation doesn't have a defining rally point but I don't think my response would be different if I belonged to a different generation. Reflecting on this question exposes the horoscope-like pseudo-science I find in encapsulating a generation. I conceive of this question very subjectively and individually. Maybe because we're by nature a very disorganized bunch - or maybe I've just missed too many meetings. But there isn't a primary hurdle I've felt I or we have had to overcome or deal with, and inasmuch I’m seeing us tow the all-too-familiar line every human has. Time is infinite, and though Generation X isn't, I feel a lot of the emotions and outlooks associated with us are timeless -- and thus I don't really feel that different or special. I see our disillusion and disenfranchisement in the Romantic Poets whose dreams of democracy were crushed by the French Revolution, just as much as I could recognize the plight of J. Alfred Prufrock in a Baby Boomer's experience.
I’m sure Baby Boomers felt just as jaded or cynical after the Kennedy and MLK assassinations or Watergate just as we did with the Clinton affair. And while they perhaps felt ethereally optimistic after the moon landing the Challenger explosion humbled space exploration for us. The inherent dilemma for me in neatly encapsulating a generation is that it undervalues the human experience and forces a negative or positive hopeful or hopeless slant – as The Dude (The Big Lebowski) would say all life (or lives) are a series of “strikes and gutters” but we always abide and survive.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: I would like for us to be remembered for our great adaptability.
Dr. Boose: I would like my generation to be remembered as being compassionate, creative, involved, and concerned about the wellbeing of their fellow man.
Pastor Johnson: If we can navigate this transition into the world of technology, that will be a gift to the future. If we can move the world further along to path to peace, justice, and equality that would also be a gift.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: Generations are often defined by how they answered the defining issues of their time. My grandparents' generation won World War II. My parents' generation grappled with racial inequality and the role of women in the family and workplace. It was clear to me even in my teenage years that equal rights for gays & lesbians would be the civil rights issue of my generation. In fact, when I was on Toledo City Council and was the youngest member of that body by several years, I sponsored the city's first ordinance to provide domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples. At the time it was controversial. Now, I can scarcely name a single group that doesn't at least support the idea of domestic partner benefits; indeed, the debate now has moved all the way to marriage. And even though marriage equality isn't a reality yet in every state, I think it's clear to everyone (even opponents of marriage equality) that it is just a matter of time. It's not a question of 'if," it's merely a question of "when." Make no mistake -- Generation X, and its more open attitudes on morality, brought about this change. In less than 20 years, Generation X took an issue that had less than 20 percent support and pushed it to a position where today a majority of Americans now support marriage equality. Generation X should be remembered for identifying its primary civil rights issue and achieving a near-total victory in such a short amount of time.
Mr. Childs: As a generation that challenged the status quo but with a certain level of deference and a respect.
17. What’s the best part of being in Generation X?
Ms. Rider: For me the best part of being part of Generation X is learning that I can be happy, find my passion, pursue my goals unencumbered and unapologetically. Life is good.
Ms. Barrera-Richards: We are the last generation to grow up with palpable things: books or newspapers -- the kind you can touch and smell. An e-book will never evoke the emotion of a great hard-copy book and scrolling through the e-paper on a Sunday will never replace the experience of opening a thick Sunday newspaper with its distinctive ink smell, coupons, crosswords, and comics.
Dr. Boose: The best part of being in Generation X is that we are alive, still making history, and
still defining who we are.
Pastor Johnson: I think one of the best things is that we can redefine ourselves as we continue to move forward.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: It has to be our music, doesn't it? I'll take Nirvana and Pearl Jam over Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga any day.
Mr. Childs: In terms of how to define us, we are a moving target and we keep those who try to define us guessing. Not being able to put us in a box is a description I proudly own.
Any additions or reflections to add:
Pastor Johnson: My reflection: I’ve heard some say that huge changes come every 500 years. Five-hundred years ago, the church had to deal with the rise of the printing press and the opening up of information as books, pamphlets, and leaflets became commonplace. With this influx of information, the church broke apart as they struggled to know how to deal with it.
Five-hundred years later, we again are in the midst of another technological change. In the midst of all
the instability and insecurity that change brings, we have the message that endures. It is the message of God’s love for all people, seen through the actions and life of Jesus, who is a window into God’s heart and priorities. This is a firm foundation to build on — especially amidst all the changes we see in our lives.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz: Generation X is often criticized, and I understand why. But no generation is perfect. The Baby Boomers who went to Woodstock and sang about peace and love ended up supporting Reaganomics. Meanwhile, I worry the Millennials are so focused on themselves (you can see it in the way products are marketed to them -- iTunes, iPod, iPad, iPhone -- everything is I, I, I) that there is a real danger of a loss of the sense of community and common purpose that make societies great. Generation X isn't perfect, but we are only now assuming leadership roles in business, politics, the media, and culture. We still have the ability to shape the world in a positive way, and I think we will. Our time is now.
Mr. Childs: Generation Xers are poised and ready to lead. I think many from the previous generation are hesitant and skeptical of the Gen Xers’ ability to do so. It is Boomers who are reluctant to relinquish and or share power with our generation.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.