Talking About my Generation

When a member of the so-called millennial generation attempts to defend their demographic against accusations they are entitled, narcissistic and solipsistic, they often end up just reinforcing the notion that they are indeed all those things.

To wit: A millennial writer who shall remain unnamed was whining in an online publication which shall remain unnamed that millennials have it so hard because they graduated college in the middle of the Great Recession, while previous generations got “cheap” college educations, company pensions, and generally enjoyed better economic conditions, better government and better everything.

As a member of Generation X (people born roughly between 1965 and 1980), let me set this person straight about a few things. Nothing was ever easy for us. The only thing I will concede to millennials is the cost of education (although many Generation Xers are struggling with student debt). But I ain’t giving an inch on anything else. I think the “pensions” thing got my goat more than anything.

Employer-funded pensions were going the way of the dinosaur by the time most of my generation entered the workforce. So were fully employer-paid health benefits and retiree health benefits. Lifetime job security would not be ours. I believe we are the first American generation not to be better-off than our parents. During our time millions of jobs disappeared that are not coming back.

Reportedly, we are the third-largest segment of the American electorate, behind baby boomers and their spawn, the millennials. (Translation: Politicians don’t give a rat’s patootie about us as a demographic.)

It’s no fun being sandwiched between two “historically important,” media-darling generations. Baby boomers got the best music. Millennials got the best technology. Yes, we Gen Xers had our little moment in the sun in the dot-com ’90s, when Bill played the sax on Arsenio (does anyone even remember Arsenio?) and Ross romanced Rachel, but it was over in the blink of an eye. We were never anyone’s darling or golden child. Indeed, we were dismissed as “slackers.”

Want to talk about recessions? I graduated right into the recession of the early 1990s. Then there was the post-9/11 recession and the anemic recovery that followed. So I have suffered through three major recessions (and counting) in my post-college years. I rode them out by waiting tables, working in retail, or sometimes not working at all. Try building a nest egg on that. I’m going to have to work until I’m 80 or until I drop, whichever comes first.

Now we are glacially recovering from the Great Recession, just in time for my generation to slam headfirst into age discrimination.

Every generation has had to deal with economic downturns, it’s nothing new. I’m sure baby boomers could talk about the terrible recessions of the ‘70s and early 1980s. And they had it worse in some ways. Neither millennials nor Generation X ever had to worry about being drafted to fight a war.

So I get a little rankled when another millennial talks as if they are the first American generation that was forced to live with their parents well into their twenties because of the crappy economy (like I was).

My generation did everything we were told to do: we went to college, learned job skills, chose careers and bought homes (after all, that was the American Dream). Then we bore the brunt of the 2008 housing crash, losing what little financial security we had. By the time we’re eligible for social security, the boomers may have sucked it dry.

Sorry, I would try to feel millennials’ pain but I’m too busy worrying.


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