A Letter to Generation X
Gen X, you’re my generation, and the generation of most of my closest work colleagues and friends.
We don’t talk a lot about our generation, do we?
When was the last time you heard someone proudly proclaim that they’re a “Gen X-er”? It’s almost as if we’re a little embarrassed. After all, we remember being called “slackers” back in the ‘90s. I know we hardly see ourselves that way, as we’ve worked hard, following right behind the prosperity of the Baby Boomer era. As a generation, the Baby Boomers have done quite well and deserve to be congratulated for that. I also believe that in many ways they were in the “right place at the right time” during a specific economic trajectory in our country. Meanwhile, Gen Xers have been trying to “find our place amidst changing times”.
What do I mean by changing times?
The years of 2001 and 2008 come to mind.
There is no doubt that there are Gen X peers who have hit their stride and made their mark.
In fact, in 2007, the Harvard Business Review said of Generation X, “They are already the greatest entrepreneurial generation in U.S. history; their high-tech savvy and marketplace resilience have helped America prosper in the era of globalization.”
Yet after sitting down and talking with Gen Xers, I’ve heard time and again about a different theme. I’ve listened as they’ve shared that the big ideas they had in their youth often hit a brick wall, that maybe somehow they were ahead of what the world was ready for then. They tell me that as time went on, they kind of settled in and settled down, yet they still have this feeling that they were supposed to do more and be more. I’ve heard about attempted business launches or innovative workplace ideas that never found their home. Now 10, 15, 20 years later, some of these same ideas have been brought to light and are thriving out there in the business world. My Gen X peers share that it can be disheartening.
It can feel a bit like life is passing you by.
I’m here to say that the world today needs the contributions of Generation X more than ever. Because of the nature of our childhoods, we’ve always been independent, resourceful, and able to come up with alternative solutions. Many of us were raised differently than the older, traditional child rearing models of the past, but long before the current era of helicopter parenting. We are also the last generation that is still deeply connected to a childhood before emails, smartphones and Facebook. We can touch back to that different, more connected time and yet also be forward thinking in the technological advances that have brought the world closer together. Contrary to a popular misconception, we are not a compressed “sandwich” between Baby Boomers and Millennials, but a “bridge” between these two generations. We are the ones who can speak a language that connects with both, and are adept at building connections in a time that is more divisive than ever.
Generation X, I want to tell you that your story has not yet been written.
Yes, the earlier chapters are complete, but there are open pages that lie ahead of us. It’s not time to step into the shadows, but time to step out into the bright light of the future.
Gen X, the world needs you.
Erin Stokes, ND