The GenX Kids ARE Alright

Stop calling us the "slacker" generation.

According to a new study on Generation X by Viacom International Media Networks, the bulk of Gen Xers – nearly 85 percent – favor work-life balance over career success. We’re also 20 percent less likely than Millennials to report being lonely. As a Gen Xer myself, I believe five things may have fueled this focus. I suspect that Millennials may not have had to have these on their radar…

1. We were raised to be more independent.

We can entertain ourselves and be OK being alone. The first generation of latchkey kids, and many of us from broken homes with moms who worked full-time, we were on our own after school. And most of us turned out more than alright. Nobody carpooled me to endless activities, offered freshly-baked cookies when I walked in the door, hovered over my homework or monitored my media use. Did I play some Atari and set the VCR for “General Hospital”? Sure. But ;80s kids had balance – and they did it on their own. 

2. Less technology made us more naïve – in a good way.

It also made us more patient. If we wanted to know lyrics to favorite songs, we had to listen to the record over and over, pause the needle, and write them down, line by line. It was a process. If we wondered how our grades were at any given moment, we simply didn’t know. There was no “Edline” to check up-to-the-minute test scores online at bedtime and stay up worrying as a result. And, speaking of bedtime, we didn’t stay up playing games on our cell phones or texting our friends ‘til the wee hours of the night. We read (ok; some of us), and then we slept. And we weren’t walking around like tired zombies the way my sons and their friends do today.

3. We didn’t worry about violence as part of the school day, or while shopping at the mall.

“Active Shooters” and Code Blue drills were things that never came up. At my grade school in Chicago in the Eighties, we had tornado drills, practicing for unlikely scenarios that could be sparked by weather patterns that could later be actually explained by weatherman on the local news. Understandably, newscasts today can’t seem to explain or offer a true analysis for horrible events of the day. There is no explaining school shootings; no sigh of relief to be had or safe haven to really find. It can happen anywhere. And it does.

4. The study also found we are savvy about our careers.

For some of us, the job market that greeted us at graduation was not so great. And when we did get a job, things like facing our first fax machine perplexed us, but, other than that, we interacted face to face with actual people all day! This made us even more savvy. We saw people come and go above us for better or lost opportunities. Loyalty was found in friends and family, not in the workplace. “Working from home” was not even a distant dream or in the realm of thought or possibility. Today, some Millennials may work from home if it’s raining or just because it’s a Friday. Wait, what? Wow.

5. We didn’t have casual conversations with higher-ups or our hands held at work; we grew thicker skin.

Not everything was done with a smile or by bosses taking time to find the right words, like many of my peers and I try to do with younger folks today. We couldn’t get constant reassurance or weekly feedback. We had to wonder, and keep working, and keep impressing.

This is not meant as a screw-you to Millennials, or as musings of a mid-life working mom. It’s just a reflection on the realities that the Gen X kids are alright. Better than alright, in fact. These are just some reasons the way we were raised should not be forgotten, should be highly regarded, and not counted out as the forgotten – or “slacker” ― generation.

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