I’m classified as Generation X. Raised by Boomers. Raising Generation Z teens. Here’s my story as to why they may just be the saving Grace we need. But don’t tell them – they’ve got enough things to worry about right now.
So what do these titles mean? I’m stereotyped into a certain generation, just like Millennials and those observant Gen Z kidderoos that are growing up way too fast for this happy nester.
As any person in the midst of their generation’s wet blanket of assumptions goes, I went through my formative young career days being told by the media and bought-in boomers that I was ‘grunge’ and a ‘slacker’ and probably not going to be a contributor to a productive society. I must’ve smelled like teen Spirit, I suppose.
Slacker? Yeah, right. Challenge accepted.
Do you know what else, besides a label, being born in the mid to late 70’s means? My generation was born with the best gift and the best curse. We live with and without many things and respect the difference. Let me explain.
What if it’s not our behaviors and choices that made us so sensitive these days but the choices and behaviors occurring around us at each stage of our age? If that’s true, I thank God I am a slacker generation against all others.
In no particular order, here are some examples of the environment my inside kid evolved from and why I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Patriotism was an honor.
I grew up so thankful to be American and stand proudly for all it represents. That’s what you did. That’s the way it was. It was the power of being a part of something bigger than yourself.
My parents were young adults during Vietnam. My dad went there right out of high school. There was a draft, yet he volunteered. They made sure we grew up knowing what defending your country meant. What honor meant.
They helped us understand why grandma washed foil and reused from growing up during WWll. How they sacrificed everything for our troops. Imagine being asked today what was asked of them.
You generally felt safe at home.
I saw fistfights every now and then as a kid, but that’s about it. They were usually half-ass, too. I can count serious-to-inflict-damage ones on one hand.
No one ever heard of using guns to shoot up places or people. I remember seeing stories on the news about people getting killed like, one on one or murders. People died in car crashes and tragedies. So you knew and appreciated the delicate balance of life, some even too close to home.
I miss living without that fear of which kid is going to blow.
There wasn’t fear of food exposures.
No one had allergies except for pine trees or cats. Pollen stuff. I could innocently share a PB & J or the cupcakes my mom made the night before. There weren’t special allergy tables at school.
It’s gotta be chemicals, right? If not, let’s make science prove it. Maybe next year our president can look at funding research into every new “FDA approved’’ chemical in the past 30 years that factories added into our food, water supply, skincare products, field sprays or whatever and see if they can timeline the symptoms of new illnesses with the additives to determine what causes what and Stop. It. Just…Staahhhhhhhhp. It.
I don’t know who I feel more empathy for, the kids living with it or the parents dealing with it. They definitely wish they could live without it.
Disabled had a whole different meaning.
Growing up, we had disabled classmates. Birth defects and various genetic abnormalities that caused different disabilities to overcome.
My grandma led an opportunity center for the disabled (physically and/or mentally) my entire life. That’s where I went after school a lot because my mom taught piano and aerobics classes after school. I spent many hours making ceramics, printing t-shirts and riding around in Susie’s wheelchair. Fearing Mr. Hendu because if you accidentally touched him he’d fall to the ground. Miss Melba always wanting to play with Miss Heather. We’d paint ornaments. (Melba’s still around by the way, probably in her 60’s. I saw her at my Dad’s church when I was home and she knew me right away, even though she hadn’t seen me since I was young 🙂
Autism wasn’t a thing. I don’t remember seeing the same patterns as we do now.
It breaks my heart to say that it is now. Every time another child is diagnosed with Autism, we lose.
Reflecting back to my memories of growing up with people of many disabilities, a private company came in and built a housing development for them, as not all of them had good parents, homes and were lacking care after hours.
My Grandma ran the upkeep and care of those magical folks until she retired. Many of my cousins and extended family worked in the same field because of it. Many we brought to our family’s holidays so they could have one.
Sad Punchline? Grams worked 35+ years until her late 60’s, leading the whole staff as their director, retiring at her proudest salary she ever made – $9.25 an hour.
After retiring, she continued service jobs like cooking in college cafeterias because she “loved to make salads for people. It’s good for you.” She is an awesome salad maker. It really is a talent.
This life of service afforded her the middle left unit of a 4 unit duplex on a hillside of a hillside in Beech Bottom that my dad remodeled in 1987 for himself. He unwillingly became separated so he bought it to remain close to us. Aside from some wallpaper and what she could afford, it remained as pristine as she could clean it. Then she got to a point where she couldn’t get up and down those smaller steep stairs to the one toilet at the top floor. ‘Not with my bladder’, she’d say.
Plus, the two flights of crumbly, catty-whompus concrete stairs leading up the hillside to her apartment were neglected since no one actually ‘owned’ them. She realized it was time for the income-based senior living apartments down in Wheeling. She was proud to sell the apartment she called home for 28 years in 2016 for $16,500. Nearly 4 thousand more than when she bought it from my dad because he bought our house back in 1988. And we moved away…
The TIA stroke she soon suffered didn’t help. She was too young for that. She’s made a come back for sure though. Can’t keep her down.
Don’t feel bad folks – this chick has an awesome, affordable 1 bedroom apartment in Wheeling with easy walking to the Dollar General and the Kroger if the weather’s nice. She doesn’t like to drive anymore. She feeds the ducks when no one is looking, too. Stupid rules.
So yeah. Back to Autism.
Didn’t see that coming. Why does the world pretend it’s always been a thing? It hasn’t. Something is causing it and we owe it to these parents and these kids to find out why. Ask Poland what they’re doing. Or Spain.
America in the 80’s offered many things, and I remember together we were united, for better or worse.
When I was young, singing along to Lee Greenwood and watching Rocky beat the Russian – Ronald Reagan was president. He was revered as a good president, western star and American.
Sure, we made fun of his wife’s campaigns, but his speecher staff worked with him and there are wise quotes still used today.
Like my favorite attempt at passive accountability – ‘Trust but verify’
Of course, his kids have issues. If you’ve noticed the stereotypical pattern of stories, ‘the rich kids who were raised to keep big people secrets long before they were ready end up-…well…maybe they are effed up. I don’t know. Cue those rich kid criminals, the ones labeled Affluent syndrome.
I think Ronald Regan was a good dude with good intentions. Whatever conspiracies, top government or whatever happened is not too dissimilar to what we are seeing now – except this time the president is pulling up a big curtain on politics ever since back then and beyond.
Who knows. He was an actor, not a politician back then, an external new player who won the hearts of Americans. Which was imperative foreshadowing for what was to happen when we became young adults.
But I am not sure if they’re spoiled or legit messed up but either way, it’s messed up. Like the twins on season two of You.
So that’s weird.
The Iran contra stuff went down on Reagan’s watch, too. I remember. Plus lots of sex scandals and weird stuff were happening in the news.
Aids became public, and the public was never the same.
Aids was introduced in my generation. I was young enough to not be affected by the scary ways you got it but old enough to know why they were scary.
Homophobia was the media sensation and the headlines’ number one recommendation to keep yourself safe was to avoid them at all costs. We didn’t even know what that meant.
I heard so much hype from it was possibly caused by a gorilla in Africa to who knows why all of a sudden it showed up in 1985, but it was because of man love or drug needles. Fear and panic ensued.
I thought Aids was bad then, and it’s bad now. It’s not cured but it’s not what you really hear about and I would think acceptance is better than it ever has been, especially considering how we were pumped full of so much fear back then of something we never heard of before while calling out a group of people who were victims not villains.
Just like fear is being misfired now for so many other unknowns.
I’m a little curious how Magic Johnson came out unscathed, Cookie, too. It was a tragedy. pure and simple, but he has some awesome doctors. At least he helped calm everyone down from the hysteria the media created for these poor, affected people.
I’m glad it’s getting radicated. It should be. I hope autism gets ten times the research and funding, minus the fear.
We didn’t have phones but we were always roaming.
When growing up as a generation X, you could play all day. I lived in a sleepy, tiny village. There were maybe a dozen kids within walking distance. We ran and explored and built stuff in the woods. I had a pool. It was out-of-ground but so what. It was the only one in town we could use whenever we wanted. Without a car, that pool was one of two options. Three, if you count the motel you could hike to on Rt. 2, only if Loretta didn’t have any guests.
We stayed out until dark and walked up and down the sidewalks of all four streets, boombox in hand, playing tapes we made from live recording the radio and then ultimately to the park. Nowadays, it’s much scarier to let kids run free and not check in every ten minutes. Why? Fear and trafficking I suppose. That’s my excuse with mine.
I think my happiest memories as an adolescent were swimming, four-wheeling and riding our roller racers from my house down the hills to the park basketball court over and over again.
There was a winter when all the boys got sigma bikes to pretend they were Rad bikes in the post office parking lot.
Remember that movie, Rad?
I know my mom questioned new kid faces that were ‘getting rides into town’ but she didn’t ever worry that in the back of her mind they were 52-year-old, fat balding pedophiles trying to trick us into kidnapping.
Our only television was for family time.
When my dad wasn’t working double shifts at the steel mill, he joined us for his Favorites – anything with Michael Landon, Chuck Norris, Tom Selleck or of course, the John Wayne.
I watched Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Night Flight videos on Fridays, the Goonies, Little House on the Prairie, Friday the 13th, Freddy Kruger, Mr. Bill after Buckwheat Eddie’s skit, MASH, Spaceballs and every western your dad wants to watch. Mom got Dallas and Knot’s Landing Fridays. We didn’t mind. We all liked them all. You all watched TV together in the evenings. You might have sat in front of it before school for morning cartoons and the Bozo Show.
If you try to tie them all together, it’s family time with faith, kindness, Grace, nostalgia, patriotism, humor, sarcasm, and never falling asleep – especially in the woods.
Now we all have three screens each. Four if you count the boys’ dual monitors for gaming while YouTubing. We schedule or force TV together time, we have to make it a planned event. But with 24/7 unlimited streaming of anything you want and more choices than we’ve ever seen, the idea of trying to consume them all is downright, overwhelming and yet so worth looking forward to. Yes, binging is quite relaxing from the other screens like work and email. Yet I still remember the day we got cable and had 27 channels. Including MTV.
We were introduced to so many modern amenities we didn’t know we needed.
We knew what technology was like before and after on many fronts, as if we grew up in the very middle of with and without. I remember my mom being so excited to boil a cup of water in a microwave in less than a minute. She danced in giddy delight.
I remember my baby brother putting a single foil-wrapped ho ho in it, sparking and smoking and sending him into a panic, as I could see exactly why. His six-year-old rationalizing was to warm it up like we discovered when you threw a Little Debbie oatmeal pie in it for 9 seconds. Okay, 13 seconds if you popped the plastic wrapper first. It would blow up if you didn’t.
Please be kind, and rewind.
Getting a VCR and having actual movies on the weekend was crazy to us. Especially when you could rent two and get one free. Maybe that’s why we love binging today.
We were cool because we had a plugin tape rewinder that was almost like the grey car in Back to the Future. It allowed us to be kind and rewind while not losing downtime in between the movie tape switchouts in the VCR.
We could get through the previews of the second movie simultaneously while rewinding the external tape of movie one in this bad boy.
We didn’t realize we needed an emergency phone, but I guess we did.
Later, as a young adult, I was suckered into the bright yellow cell phones you bought on 100 minutes per month contracts that could withstand heat to leave in your glove box in case you needed it in an emergency. Fear tactic. Don’t get stranded!
That’s the sales angle they went with. I imagine if I was older back then, my tactic would’ve been hey – you could call your wife while she’s at the grocery store to ask her to get you a 12 pack of Busch Latte and spaghetti sauce. Sign me up. Put it in the purse. I don’t like using fear as a marketing tactic.
And texting was a surprise? Really? No one thought texting would take off so they didn’t charge for it at first. It didn’t use data like voice calls did.
How didn’t you see that taking off?? We had phones, but passing notes and sending your kid with notes was the way it worked. Why would texting be any different? Same deal. It’s the new note pass. And Facebook bullies are writing on the bathroom door with a sharpie who you should call for a good time.
They had to figure out how to make money off of it. Now it’s packaged as unlimited text when it was anyway. But now we send attachments so fine.
Teachers ruled. And still could use rulers if they chose to.
I only had a handful of teachers that actually took kids up on the paddle option. I’m glad we live without it now, but could you imagine living in today’s world if they still could? We wouldn’t need to worry about Iran, we’d have war here with those online mommy groups. No more cloakroom whipping for Johnny.
Teachers are the front line of our generations to come. We used to watch rocket ships take off from TV’s set up in the gym. Until the crash. That was devastating. It was like watching the towers get hit. I literally had to sit and process what was happening when that Space Shuttle blew up because I couldn’t understand it. That doesn’t happen. But it did.
We also had tornado drills and disaster drills, even though they didn’t really specify what a disaster drill was, but I imagined it had something to do with Russians invading or a massive earthquake making Appalachia fall on top of us. I mean, rock slides are a thing even today.
Now it’s to avoid a classmate or invader deciding to shoot everyone for some insane reason.
The past was interesting.
We loved growing up with learning about our family’s generations, even if by reruns or movies like Dazed and Confused. Or Peggy Sue Got Married. Or Marty McFly. Bill and Ted’s? Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone?
I’m guessing that’s why Disney+, Friends and many 90’s shows are coming around again thanks to Netflix and all the streamers. The nostalgia of youth or your parents’ youth is impactful.
We share our memories like all of these in this story with our Gen Z dudes with our emotions included. As they say… We Must Never Forget.
A regular, sunny morning in September changed us.
My generation were young adults when 9/11 happened. Just as my parents were at Vietnam. Talk about rocking your world forever. Our country was invaded and thousands died. Just trying to be Americans.
It could’ve been any of us. It affected every one of us.
Sadly, as soon as everything started to unfold, and the introduction of terrorism within our borders was real – it was like one of your greatest childhood fears became possible – is Red Dawn happening????
Whether we knew or not, whether our leadership team burned the credit building down the block coincidentally or the Pentagon coverup to hide a $1.2 Trillion mishap… I heard many criticisms from our media, I watched the conspiracies and still question it all today. So much fear and rumors.
I don’t know, and we probably won’t know. It doesn’t matter for this point of the story.
Our country was invaded while I was watching the Today Show and had a day off from work. It rattled me and every single soul.
Being invaded, that messes you up. That’s unfathomable. I can’t imagine what mothers feel in current war-torn countries today. Sure, Pearl Harbor happened but that was 25 years before I was born or my parents for that matter.
For the first time, those guys thousands of miles away in robes like we saw on Back to the Future were real, yet living among us as everyday people. They were welcomed to our country openly and blew up our people and used our own planes as weapons to do it. If that could happen…what else could happen? More fear. Exposed to a new culture that was only tied to terrorism. Stereotypes, sure, but that is a fact.
We realize not everyone is a terrorist – and we also realize not everyone who’s homosexual and male is going to kill us.
The Millennial generation were children in 2001. They may not remember the seriousness of it, or the reality of it or were sheltered from experiencing it. I wouldn’t want my child seeing all this, and I didn’t. So I get it. However, they’ve also had active American troops on foreign soil their entire lives. Could this all be more pages in a history book for another exam and nothing more?
If parents today were adults during 9-11 and were kids during the 70-80s and remember how it used to be, we have to remember it and tell it.
We must articulate it, share it, discuss it … because it’s those tragedies that shaped us, too. If we don’t, we can’t get real in today’s craze lands.
We don’t need another tragedy to instill this patriotism and united front. I don’t want history repeated in the future, period.
The sheer comradery and patriotism we experienced with our neighbors, communities and families instilled a feeling we know is worth protecting. Like our parents did. From their parents.
Yet most of the young adult experiences of the millennial generation are happening on our soil and it’s not realized that it wasn’t like this before.
If kids during Vietnam raised kids during the early 2000s, maybe there’s a disconnect of what patriotism and connectedness as a country are not as relevant.
Have we forgotten our brave firefighters, EMTs, civilians, and police risked their lives and gave their lives at that dreadful mass murder site? We were reminded of what a blessing our heroes are.
Trying to hang on to a piece of peace.
I speculate that Gen X got the stereotypes we did from the media because being laid back and slacking was a defense to take a minute to digest what was going on, to wrap our minds around all this stimulus. All this fear seemed to grow like mutant chia pets before our eyes faster than dial-up could open a chat room.
We had to learn how to deal with all this new scary stuff like middle eastern wars, Columbine and possibly a virtual world meltdown of Y2K. Bloods and Crips showed their ugly heads and then 9/11 happens? Yikes. This is a whole new boiling cup of water. Yet I didn’t want to dance or be giddy.
Why can’t we just shove it all in a rewinder while we watch something better?
We had before and after. Gen Z only has now. Unless we help them change it.
Sadly, the tragedies they’re growing up with are right here, down the street, in the school, on the TV and at the mall. It’s accepted as normal. It’s not normal. None of this is normal.
We can’t sit back and allow it to appear that way anymore.
Meth, heroin, and opioids started to get press as it snuck through the south and across our land. Crack was ruining people. Crime is rampant because of it. So are overdoses. It’s like a zombie apocalypse of mind mushers.
We remembered life without this chaos. Now we have life with it.
I’m sure secretly many of you 40+ers are excited to see some recreational stuff become normal in the future. Anxiety, blood pressure and cancer are at all times high and we’ve accepted prescribing hundreds of pills instead. I think we are sick because we weren’t designed to live with this type of world and didn’t push back when could have.
I suppose it’s hidden, regressed stressors from living through all this stuff and now this current life when you knew how it could be – but the problem is so dang big you aren’t sure what to do.
And those kids we babysat when we were in high school didn’t really have an anchor of hope or understanding of what good looks like so they get the fun stereotype of instant gratification and fast promotions.
I remember as a young adult the only people you’d assume had heart issues were old comb-over guys with big round bellies and brown striped ties. Docker pants. More stereotypes. Now it’s me needing new BP meds and watching umpteen commercials for medications to fix the side effects of your medications at the ripe old age 42.
Add to that we now are raising the newest emerging generation – Gen Z.
Thank God, we grew up with a couple of gaps of awesome, innocent years that we remember and have the memory capabilities many young adults today weren’t old enough to grasp– especially if they didn’t get it passed on to them through wise matriarchs or patriarchs.
We must try to give our kids hope and share how it can be and should be to be American. Serenity prayer, golden rule and commandments, too.
Maybe its that gap we were given of a pretty cool, young world where we loved Michael Jackson, thought gay meant aloof like the Flintstone theme song, and that it wasn’t race or voting cards – it was our communities that united us as a bigger group. We overcame SO much from the uneducated past. Now we have more tech than we ever could have imagined possible and are more divided as a country than we’ve ever remembered – ever in my generation. Ever.
We need to be the hope for our kids. We are the youngest generation to remember and know what it could be.
I know some Millennials who are ready to prove the stereotypes wrong. And I know the ones who make their stereotype ring true and are missing that genuine longing to be the United States once again.
Let’s help Gen Z become Zen.
So why do I think Gen Z is going to be OK? Well, if we, Generation X remember what it was like to be them at that age – see them as an image of us back then – and take away the fear media tactics, teach them how to get their own jobs and teach them that driving is a good thing and how to drive 5-speeds and go camping and hang our flag and share our stories of why our country is great, they can help us fix this.
We can assure them that technology is good but sweat equity is honorable too. The stigma that college and white collars are the only way to go is diminishing as fewer and fewer people under forty know how to use a drill, change oil or weld some pipes. They can truly chase their passion and figure out what that passion even is. The United States can allow you to pursue any passion you want. For now anyway.
You don’t have to be IT to be the SH-IT.
We’re raising Gen Z…soo….. they’re gonna be like 70’s kids with 2020 tech brains, patriotic parents and grandparents, and not sure what kind of flipping world we live in right now either. They can throw out the ‘smh’ like we do, now that we know what that even means. Dang acronyms anyway.
Again – let’s think about the world they showed up in –
Mass shootings are the norm. Suicides in their high schools are becoming suicides in their middle schools. People spit in the streets and randomly attack other Americans because you show respect for the place you know and love and want to protect. San Francisco has a pooping problem. Our hands are burning from all the EMF in the devices attached to us 24/7. I mean, it’s your alarm clock, too. It’s always within feet of your body.
Cities allow criminals to go free, our veterans are underserved, mental health is the new stigma and not funded, supported or tracked but the living conditions of complete total chaos and fear are at levels of insanity.
There’s some research out there that suggests the chemicals in our lives also affect our mental health. Hmmmm….?
In a world of technology that allows news to travel in milliseconds, medical breakthroughs and connectedness like we’ve never seen before through social communication – we are more broken than we’ve ever seen. On the brink of first-world problems actually being real.
Imagine their view. No wonder they aren’t interested in dating, driving or decisions.
Together, we have to help them. Help everyone understand what peace looks like in a much milder version when we all come together as humans, golden rules and flags of solidarity.
I think they’re awesome people and fun to hang out with. I must add a disclaimer, my daughter is technically considered the M generation, but I was a kid when I had her and I’d call her an honorary Generation X, just born in 1992. She’s seen a lot of stuff and loves grunge music.
Where fear and fact are more disconnected than ever. Final Thoughts:
What if we can help our younger citizens realize we all get confused and scared because of the media’s fear but push back for facts and real science? Think of the truths that will be uncovered of the majority of us all:
You can love your country and respect all the colors and cultures that love it, too.
You can love your country and believe everyone deserves love, no matter the story of how it began.
You can love your country and support gender equality and protecting all human rights.
You can love your country and protect those that protected it.
You can love your country and wish success and white picket fences for everyone who wants them.
You can love your country and push for mental health support, chemical causes of new diseases and protecting our environment.
You can love our country and make sure our education, history, and faith are restored to create unity for all.
You can love your country and protect our children from predators, crime, drugs and still figure out how asylum should work responsibly.
You can love your country and expect those that live here to love it, too.
I love being a United States citizen and we all have to remember what that can feel like if we take care of us.
Can’t we all unite long enough to say we got a lot of problems we gotta fix right here so let’s shut down the doors for a while? You know, clean up our house before having a party.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope it helps give you ideas on how to help our nation. Don’t cringe, Brah.
Show Time, Synergy! Let’s show these kids the way it can be.
PS Check out this ironic quote I found while writing this: ‘I don’t like what I see. I don’t like seeing Japan and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait ripping off this country we have a great country we’re paying for the defense of Japan by going out to Japan borrowing money from Japan, paying high-interest rates and then defending them.
Japan borrowing money from Saudi Arabia, high-interest rates…So, we’re borrowing money from Japan in order to defend Japan. I think that is ridiculous. It is preposterous.
We got to be spending money for the farmers and spending money for AIDS. ‘
President Trump, CNN-Crossfire 12/23/1987. Pretty cool, huh? On CNN!