From the Hat: When I was a Kid

I hope that one of these days I will have ideas for writing topics. Maybe it’s rose-colored hindsight, but my recollection of other stretches where I was blogging is that I had so many more subjects than I had the bandwidth to address.

And now here I am with my shiny “write every day in 2019” pledge, and the topic well has run dry. Oy vey.

So, I guess it’s back to the “hat box” I go.

I remember when I was a kid….

Well, that’s nice and broad.*

Okay, I’m not sure why my brain took this particular leap, but now I’m thinking about the whole phenomenon of being a Gen-X’er: part of the forgotten generation.

Y’all saw the brief kerfuffle over the weekend about CBS News doing some report about generational differences in the U.S., with a handy-dandy chart to refresh everyone’s memory about which generation we slot into:

CBS Generation Guidelines
I guess no one was born between 1964 and 1981?

Admittedly, this is more comical than actually annoying. I highly recommend the HuffPo round-up of snark and sarcasm that this little infographic fail inspired around the interwebs.

Still, it has me thinking about the weird status of being this strange generation that’s known more for its liminality than for more definitive characteristics. We’re not young enough to be digital natives, but we are young enough that information technology has been a big part of our adult and working lives. There were some unique socio-historical features in our decades–that odd post-Kennedy Cold War span–but we’re just too small a generation, numerically speaking, for these unique perspectives to have infected the national zeitgeist in the same way that Boomer Culture and Millennial Culture have.

Not too many years ago, in one of the first jobs where I’d sort of broken out of “middle” to “upper” management,** those of us in a particular management team all read some book or other about the new trends and techniques that were necessary in managing workers for the Millennial generation. Some of the opening chapters summarized the various work norms that had been predominant for the decades that the Boomers were in charge: norms I remembered having to learn and mold myself to when I left grad school and started my career.

Then later chapters outlined all the new work norms we managers (lingering Boomers and promoted Gen-X’ers) were going to have to learn and mold ourselves to, not because Millennial employees were officially “in charge,” but because they had the demographic advantage of numbers on their side.

And I very poutily thought to myself: “When does it get to be my turn?!?

None of this simmering resentment was helped when my boss (one of those lingering Boomers) tried to make a cute analogy to the Harry Potter books. The Boomers, she suggested, were like the professors: Dumbledore and McGonagall. The Millennials were young rebels like Harry and Ron. And the Gen-X’ers, she wrapped up, were kind of like Hagrid: off to the side of the property.

Enough time has passed that this comment shouldn’t still get such a rise out of me. Nonetheless, I gotta ask:

What the fuck does that even mean?!?

Setting disastrous Harry Potter analogies aside, here’s where I think I’ve landed on the question of generational “turns.” When does it get to be my turn? It doesn’t. It won’t.

For better or for worse, the numbers are what they are. So my generational tendencies are never gonna be the heavy hand on the rudder steering the great ship USA. On the bright side, as Keenan Thompson said last Saturday Night:

I just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn.

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* I think I’m beginning to dislike this hat box of mine.

** These lines are fuzzy in the non-profit world.

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Image credit: Twitter user Bill Evanson.

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