If you are reading this, congratulations! You made it to 2017. It’s not a given that we’ll make it through any year, but 2016 felt particularly dicey.
In a year in which we lost so many artists and cultural icons, my family and I suffered personal losses as well. We lost my father-in-law in October. It’s never easy to lose a family member but it’s especially hard when it is unexpected. Also, the week before Christmas my 16 year-old cat passed away, which might seem like a trite loss to non-pet owners, but he was with me for every major event in my adult life. He was my buddy and I miss him. For me the loss was significant.
Between the deaths of 2016 and the election of 2016, it was hard to not feel wounded at the end of the year and gain a sense of relief when the clock finally switched from 11:59PM on 12/31/16 to 12:00AM on 1/1/17. But the hope that normally accompanies a new year? Not so much.
I’ve never really bought in to the whole New Year = New Hope business anyway, but January has always been a time of reflection for me; my birthday is the eighth day of the year (*ahem*), so it truly is the start of MY new year.
As I embed myself further into mid-life, I have a hard time accepting that I’ve been adulting, like for real, for twenty years. It shouldn’t be so hard since the evidence is all around me: marriages are breaking up, parents and pets are dying, my back hurts, it’s getting harder to see small print, I’ve added jazz to my music rotation…
See? All the signs are there: this IS the middle. For me, and for my generation.
I’m a GenXer through and through. Whereas some of my cohorts have no allegiance to the skepticism, angsty music, or flannel fashions of our younger days, I look back on it all fondly. I don’t have to look that far, actually, because I’m more skeptical now than ever, still listen to Pearl Jam (more than I do jazz), and even still have (and wear) some of my 90s clothes. And I still feel like my generation is lost and overlooked.
But maybe we are on the path to finding ourselves.
In 2016, our collective childhood finished crumbling around us. We are the MTV Generation. We are the Latch Key Children. With TV often serving as our babysitter during the rise of basic cable, we connected to popular culture in a way previous generations had not. Our music and entertainment icons were special to us and provided a soundtrack to our formative years. We all heard the same songs and watched the same TV shows and movies. We had a shared experience that gave us common touchstones during confusing time.
Now that popular culture is basically our only culture, it’s lost its meaning. There’s too much to consume. The current abundance of media and pop culture has turned me into the old guy yelling at kids to get off my lawn.
And I’m over it. I’m sick of the bullshit and it’s all bullshit.
This is bigger than the politics that soured the last 18 months. This is bigger than having a president-elect who conducts himself like he’s on a reality TV show. As a society, we are transitioning into something ugly and unrecognizable. We are the generation who can stop that trajectory, but only if you are sick of the bullshit, too.
Sure, GenX is the smallest generation, but we are also ascending to financial and social power as the Boomers age out (and die out). The Millennials will eventually out-power us, but not for a while. They lack the experience and capital to be as effective as the Xers right now.
So what are we going to do about it?
That fire that you feel? That restlessness and annoyance triggered by the last year? Listen to it. Use it. Democrat, Republican, Independent, Martian — who cares. If we make this Us vs. Them we will just be spinning our wheels.
If you are a GenXer who is happy with the current state of affairs, you aren’t paying attention. It’s not our childhoods that will be crumbling in the future, it will be our society. This must be the tipping point to stand up for something, ANYTHING, instead of just going with the flow. Now is our time. None of us should be thrilled that the two “best” options for President of the US were both 70 years old. Where is our distrust of the establishment? Our fear of Big Brother? The MAN trying to keep us DOWN? Who even are we anymore?
This is a call. A call to all my GenXers: Pay attention. Get angry. Take action.
Let’s fight FOR each other instead of WITH each other. Let’s get over ourselves and get something done.
We do NOT have to settle and think that this is the best we can do. We can do better. We have to.