What It Is Wednesday — Dauntlessly Dealt (genX) Reality
A weekly dose of dauntlessly dealt reality from the What It Is Wednesday Blog Carnival…Foremost, I learned yesterday that my blog hasn’t delivered properly since about mid-April. Having figured out the tech of that joy, this email is likely to be a mile long, as the Mail Chimp devas will append every missed post to it. Please forgive, and know that it should be straight from here out.
Should. (And if not, please contact me and let me know!)
Spoiler: There’s a lot of ranting, ahead.
I’ve hesitated to write this blog for a couple of weeks, now, yet it keeps tapping me on the shoulder. The truth is, I never put a lot of stock in the generational definitions and demographics. I’ve tended to look at life’s lot more in terms of geography, ethnicity, gender, economics, and education level. Until now. Until middle age.
I won’t lie; the death of Chris Cornell is what sealed this introspection. For a long time I, like so many fell for the media portrayal of overdoses, suicides, and celebrity meltdowns, figuring they were isolated cases of individual mental illness, malaise, addiction. Then I started noticing that most of them were my age or younger.
It’s not a coincidence.
I am GenX, the 13th generation since America gained its independence. I can’t say that I never thought about it, because my thoughts have been dominated by generational shadow since sixth grade, when my school was on lockdown while a shooter was on campus, since I witnessed one friend’s OD and another’s account of parental sexual assault in ninth grade, since a classmate committed suicide in twelfth grade.
We weren’t the first ones to experience these things, though we were the first collective generation to call them what they were out loud and ask for help with them. The thing is, nobody listened. Instead, we got a war on drugs, media content labels, “Just Say No,” and “MADD.”
The apathy generation, huh?
Yes, I was a latch-key kid.
This isn’t all about drugs and mental illness, and their impact on GenX. It’s about what we collectively had access to, compared to American generations before us, and what actual choices we had, therein. Which is to say that in my middle age, I see now, we had a lot of choices, in the bigger scheme. We just weren’t allowed, systematically, to act on them, or were very demographically limited by which ones we could act on.
Baby Boomers were predated by the GIs, though raised by the Silentist, or Traditionalist, Generation. That’s a relatively short sentence to pack in all the change that occurred in the United States, during those years. We went from being predominantly farmers and ‘work til you die,’ to WWII, refrigerators, and rock-and-roll. Nothing in that shift collectively addressed the toll it would take on all of us, on any level.
Such a short experiment this country is, with such short memory.
It had to land somewhere, so it landed on GenX, for starters. Like I said, we had choices. They were: 1) get a higher education on government loan for a job that would get us a salary to pay back the aforementioned loan over twenty years and supply little else in the way of earnings or mobility, 2) go into the military to get a “free” education, and 3) work in unskilled labor. Keep in mind the economy was in decent shape through most of our formative years, compared to how it is, now. The free higher education options former generations got could have still been available, though they weren’t. Why? Because there was no profit in them for universities. The government and banks have earned a great deal off of our loans, though.
In that light, our futures were mortgaged much the way the housing market crashed 10 years ago–with intent to fail. They knew we couldn’t pay it back. They knew there wouldn’t be jobs commensurate to degree or tuition spent.
We have less systemic support than our parents.
We have less to show for our work than our parents did at our ages.
We are in worse health at our ages than our parents were, and in many cases, are now. We were GMOed without consent. We are hydrogenated, HFCSed, ADHDed, and are expected to live shorter life spans than our parents, with more chronic disease.
Some of us did better than our parents financially, yet when considering inflation and the fact that there’s NOTHING at the end of this race, it’s a loss, at minimum a wash. There’s not going to be retirement, social security–none of that–assuming we even live that long. It’s hard to plan a retirement when you’re using everything to live on.
We’ve been at war since we graduated high school.
We’re depressed out of our minds and are already crowding the healthcare system as much as Boomers, to show for it.
If we’ve learned nothing, know that depression looks a lot like apathy. Every day I read about how Millennials are disillusioned, and Boomers are bulging our governmental systems. GenX is the new Jan Brady, only mentioned when we make other generations uncomfortable, or remind them that we’re here.
I say this all, because it weighs heavily on my thoughts, as I watch the current world stage. At this point, all Boomers have to do is all they ever had to do regarding the system: show up. It will be there. The Millennials are the entitled, ‘handed everything’ generation. GenX is the working stiff, keeping it all afloat.
Where, good, can it possibly go? Millennials are being left with even less to work with than we had, and who do you think is going to shoulder that gap? Boomers will be long gone. On the current trajectory, our kids are never leaving home; it’s not even a feasible goal, anymore.
At the end of it all, what concerns me most is that none of this is about generationalism. Rather, it’s that this culture screws its children and hangs them out to dry, then calls them ungrateful and refuses them their experience and elderhood.
Curiously, the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (formerly the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse), which spans 1978 to 2013, shows both Boomers and Millennials have a higher use of substances than GenX.
GenX, though, has the highest suicide rate of any tracked generational group, as of 2016. We are also the smallest of the 6 living generations in the United States.
It’s true, I’ve never understood why attending Woodstock indicated a generation had changed the world. I also never once got a trophy for participation, or gifts disguised as party favors at someone else’s birthday party. And if you think those kinds of formative factors aren’t significant in the way we think, behave, and vote in adulthood, wake up to how much we’re not taking care of each other.
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