Some co-workers and I recently discussed which generation we fall into —baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and so on. At age 33, I am right in the middle of Generation X, which includes those born from 1965-1980.
We did some unscientific research — also known as Googling — to see which characteristics define our generation. Although it is impossible to make millions of people fit one mold, it was interesting to consider whether the characteristics listed were applicable to our personalities.
It also made me remember an exchange with my sophomore English teacher in high school. The details have been blurred by time, but I remember handing in a report of some sort in which I had written, “I’m just a Generation X’er. What do you expect?” My teacher wrote “not much” in the margin before returning the paper. That may sound like a somewhat ugly exchange between teacher and student, but it was actually a lighthearted follow-up to a class discussion about how Baby Boomers thought Generation X’ers could never live up to their work ethic.
That may well have been the last time I thought about my inclusion in the Generation X category until The Kentucky Standard’s publisher, Jamie Sizemore, mentioned it Thursday. She is among the young baby boomers, who, according to one Web site, are characterized by optimism, community awareness and defining themselves by their career. I can see all of those in Jamie, although I don’t think she fully defines herself by her career. She is definitely devoted to the paper, but she has many other roles as well, including wife, mother and daughter.
I, on the other hand, as a Generation X’er, am supposed to be a cynic toward all things held dear by the baby boomers. At least, that’s what a compilation of articles on Wikipedia said. We grew up in the decade following the Cold War and came of age during a recession that affected the job market in the early 1990s. According to a Time magazine article from the late 1980s, “They possess only a hazy sense of their own identity but a monumental preoccupation with all the problems the preceding generation will leave for them to fix. … While the baby boomers had a placid childhood in the 1950s, which helped inspire them to start their revolution, (Generation X) grew up in a time of drugs, divorce and economic strain. They feel influenced and changed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, AIDS, fractured families and federal deficits.”
We defy definition, hence the label “Generation X.” The most common word used to describe us is “cynical.” We also are self-reliant, media-savvy and individualistic, valuing freedom, responsibility and realism.
Is that me? I must admit that I have a strong bend toward cynicism. It is usually my first reaction to any institution, statement or new idea unless it is coming from someone or something I know well enough to have quieted the cynic within me. I’m definitely self-reliant and realistic, but I don’t know how individualistic I am. I suppose that’s for others to decide. As for feeling influenced by the social problems I “see as my inheritance,” I remember feeling burdened by a seemingly screwed-up world when I was younger, but the older I get, the more I learn to obsess only over the things I can control — which isn’t much.
All in all, I don’t mind being part of the generation that defies definition. I’ve never liked being pigeon-holed.
Stephanie Hornback is news/photo editor at The Kentucky Standard and a former graphic artist at The LaRue County Herald News.