I never liked the term "Generation X". It was dumped into the culture when I was in my mid-twenties. I had never looked at my peers as having shared the same cultural experiences as the World War II veterans, or the turmoil of the 1960s that bonded those pesky "Baby Boomers". We grew up in a time of relative peace (well there was that invasion of Granada) and there was not a group concert that captured our souls. Sure, we had MTV and Madonna, but a pop star with her underwear on the outside is not really the same thing as fighting in WWII, protesting against Vietnam or a stoned weekend at Woodstock.
Nowadays the media spends far too much time describing, dissecting and deluding the different generations. We all get lumped together with people born over decade plus span of years, and the worst traits of those around us are flaunted as the norm.
Today's youth (are they Gen Y or Millennials?) have been spoon fed an identity before they were old enough to figure it out for themselves. Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers have hogged all the oxygen in the room since the late 1960's, with each milestone in their lives (They turned 50, 60, 65, etc...) chronicled on the cover of Time Magazine.
When I was coming of age nobody yet had placed a label on me and my peeps. We grew up "Free Range" until some Canadian novelist dropped the "Generation X" title on the world in 1991. Wammo, the news media went on a feeding frenzy trying to categorize everyone born post baby boom through 1979. Then Kurt Cobain died and we were pegged to the event as if the had been the death of JFK or MLK (the proof that the grunge musicians passing is not the same thing is clear in the fact that nobody refers to the late Mr. Cobain as KDC).
Is my life experience being born in 1966 the same as my friend, Kurt Gregg of Boise, ID, who was born in 1979? In the 1980s we lived on the same street in Southern California. We are both called Gen X, but I babysat him, changed his diaper and was in college by the time he was 5-years-old. Where I watched Scooby-doo on Saturday mornings he watched Ninja Turtles on cable TV or video cassette. Those crime solving cartoon kids who came on once a week are not the same role models as mutant reptiles on demand. Hardly the same generation, yet we fall prey to the lumping of generations.
I regularly speak to corporate audiences about the mix of the generations in the workplace as part of my "Some Assembly Required" presentation. My belief is there are fewer differences than the media and the paid consultant "gurus" want you to believe. Millions of dollars is being spent by corporations to "understand" how to work with the olds and the youngs, but people are really just people. Remember in the 1960s the Boomers said "Don't Trust Anyone Over 40". Today the same group does not trust anyone under 40.
Today's Gen Y is taking on many similar chants and mantras of superiority to other generations, as did their Boomer parents, who also falsely believed they were the unique pioneers of wanting to change the world (I think everyone has that desire to change the world for the better). They too are disregarding their elders experiences and mistaking the technologies they use as something they invented. It will be interesting to see what happens when they reach middle age, become parents, and have the mortgages and BMW payments. Will they really be as different as the media is predicting?
While situations in the outside world have always changed over time, people are still people. Reading about the issues facing humanity in historical texts (the bible or others) shows many challenges we face today are not that different than the challenges of the past, we just have the internet.
Sure there are some generalizations within each generation, and the narcissistic tendencies of the Boomers and Generation Y do play well to having all the attention in the media lumped upon them. But Generation X is coming of age (currently in our 30s and 40's and 46 million strong in the US) and are assuming leadership positions in corporations, governement, and non-profits. You will not read about it on the cover of Time Magazine, as the media does not see the sizzle of Gen X. But yes,,,,, we are still here and working hard. Thanks for asking.
I think the smartest thing anyone can do is make friends across generational lines. Diversity is key. It is common to see HR departments in companies of all sizes educating employees about tolerance and acceptance of different races, religions, sexual orientations, etc.... but rare is the advice to embrace meaningful connections across the lines of age. Friendships lead to respectful mentoring (in both directions).
If you are over 50-years-old invest the time to make a new friend every year (a real friend, not a "Facebook friend") with someone in their 20s. If you are under 35-years old, make a new friend who is over 50. If you are in the middle (That's you, Gen X), make two new friends each year (one older, one younger). This will provide you with perspective on the generations and help keep you relevant. You will discover there are many more similarities than there are differences. Knowing this will make you laugh at the media's love affair with creating artificial divisions between people of different ages.
I grew up as the youngest of 26 grand-children, and I am the only one who is not a Baby Boomer. My brothers were almost teenagers when I was born. Many of my sibling's and cousin's children are Millennials, so I see both sides. I am in the middle. I am the bridge. We choose to divide, but there is no reason for it.
Batons are being passed from older to younger generations, but that has happened for thousands of years. It is not a conspiracy or a phenomena. It is the circle of life (yes, we have all seen the Lion King, it was not just a movie for the Gen Y crowd!).
Have A Great Day.