I came across an infographic recently that highlighted food culture statistics for Baby Boomers and Millennials. Much to my surprise — or not — there was zero mention of Generation X. Maybe the food industry doesn’t think we eat.
I’ve been documenting silly slight like this for nearly a decade including contradictions in population and years. Often the years for Boomers and Millennials are expanded to fit a desirable thesis. In 2012 Trinity College conducted a study about Generation X and defined the years we were born as 1965 to 1972. Just seven years. It was the worst example to date of the ever-shrinking years of Generation X.
I’ve pondered this erasure for a long time because every Xer I know thinks he was the only one. The only one who wore a latchkey to school or ran around unsupervised until the street lights came on. The only one who looked after himself while the adults around him chased happiness and recognition. The only one who grew up feeling unsafe. The only one who grew self-reliant to a fault.
Gen-Xers were born during one of the most shameless anti-child phases in American history. Over time, we devolved to a nameless generation. X for unknown factor. X for crossed-out and scoured.
Even the demographers couldn’t think of a name for us. In their book, The Fourth Turning, historians William Strauss and Neil Howe labeled us the 13th Generation because of where we fell chronologically. We were given a number deemed too dubious for airport gates and skyscrapers.
It was all too prophetic as we became the unlucky cohort.
Beginning in the 1960s, adults didn’t want to have kids anymore. Boomers managed their unwanted pregnancies with the pill, which was approved in 1960, and abortion, which was legalized in 1973. Numerous bar graphs illustrate how these historic events took a bite out of Generation X.
We’ve also been unlucky financially. For example, when Baby Boomers went to college, the interest rates on their student loans ranged from 2 to 4 percent, but for Gen Xers, they soared to 8 percent or greater. During the Great Recession, Americans lost more than $16 trillion in wealth. Gen-Xers lost the most at 45 percent.
Generational Center of Gravity
So many things have made Gen-Xers grumpy and contrary. Based on interviews Neil Howe did in the early 1990s, Gen Xers identified early with collective failure. Back then, we felt like a great big nuclear disaster. We were our own three-mile island. And, the X, with its “identity-cloaking effect,” hasn’t helped. While other generations feel pride, Xers still struggle to find a “generational center of gravity.” (Source: Neil Howe, Forbes, August 2014.)
Understanding your time and place in history is paramount to discovering your purpose in this life. It can’t be rubbed out by marketing tactics or effaced by 80 million Millennials or 78 million Baby Boomers. It can’t be reversed by the people who didn’t want you or left you.
You are not the broken people, the broken homes, or the broken generations that came before you.
Although your arrival may not have been celebrated like it should have been, rest assured that on the day you were born you were cherished by the Living God, by the Father of Lights from whom all good things come. He did not give you a spirit of fear on that glorious day – your birthday! He gave you a spirit of love and power. As he knit you together in the womb, he equipped you for the hardships and battles you would face. And, now, from sorrow and rejection come spiritual advantages you can use to heal the world.
No more latchkeys. No more anti-child phase. No more neglected middle child of history. You have been called out of darkness and into God’s marvelous light.
If you believe history involves cycles that repeat themselves, we face several more years on troubled seas. But, eventually, Generation X will enter halcyon days and that is where we’ll grow old.
This my friends will feel like the greatest irony of all.
And I can tell by the way you’re searching
For something you can’t even name
That you haven’t been able to come to the table
Simply glad that you came
And when you feel like this try to imagine
That we’re all like frail boats on the sea
Just scanning the night for that great guiding light
Announcing the jubilee…
(Mary Chapin Carpenter)