I got an email from a very upset young woman recently. It was in response to my recent blog about the “Entitlement Generation.” She was angry, but gracious and eloquent with her words. She told me that “her generation is faced with more debt and hardship than anyone else.”
I told her that I was going to write this particular blog…because while I agree, her generation has a lot of debt (I was talking more about ‘attitude’)…there are a few things about my generation she needs to know.
I am a GenXer. Often referred to America’s neglected middle child. The latchkey kids. Our childhood was a mix of sugary-cereals, Saturday morning cartoons and John Hughes movies. The premiere of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was an event…and the only thing bigger than our hair, was the eventual flannel shirt movement. We knew MTV when music videos were played 24/7. We saw Run-DMC, Nirvana & Notorious BIG change music and leave a lasting imprint. We lived through the Three Mile Island scare…the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster…the dot-com boom and bust of the 90s…the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.
At the time, the cost of a college education for a GenXer was higher than it had ever been and the jobs were scarce. When we finally found jobs, we didn’t make enough money to make our loan payments so we deferred. And deferred. And deferred. My first job in the news industry, I made $6.50 an hour. I asked if I could “maybe make a little more.” I was told “No. That’s the salary. If you don’t want it there are hundreds of other journalists willing to work for that.” Ok – I accept. So I ate tuna fish and Ramen noodles for the first two years in the “real world.” I couldn’t afford my $450 car payment so my car got repossessed from my work parking lot…while the entire news station watched it all happen. Yeah. Not fun. I watched one of my co-workers chase the truck down the street because he thought the driver “got it wrong.”
Many GenXers entered the workforce during the boom years of the Clinton administration. But then 9/11 happened…a few years later, the Great Recession. We lost jobs. If we kept our jobs, we were placed on furlough or we had a pay freeze. I’ve gone through 2 LONG pay freezes and a furlough. Not fun.
Most of us bought our homes just before the housing market crashed. Yep. I was one of those people. It sucked. (for lack of better word) It eventually took two paychecks just to make one mortgage payment.
As a GenXer, we were often labeled as slackers and cynical. A stigma we had to work over-time to remove. We were described by one author as a “mediocrity cold-cut sandwiched between two slices of really exciting bread.” Ouch.
I remember my grandmother telling me that “you kids have no drive. No Ambition. You kids with those tattoos and earrings all of the way up your ears with that loud thumping music.”
GenXers quickly became the “throw-away” generation.
But if there is one thing all GenXers (ME especially) loved more than anything: proving people wrong.
And we have done just that.
GenX gave the world Google, YouTube, Amazon, Twitter and blogging…to name just a few.
Every generation is faced with trials, tribulations and enormous mountains to climb.
Take the Baby Boomers for instance. They had the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, political unrest, the Vietnam War and all of the protests that went along with it, drug experimentation, sexual freedom and the Civil Rights movement.
The point is this: control the “controllables.” Focus on you.
Life isn’t fair. Sad…but true. There are many, many bumps in the road.
>>>In my early 20s, the power company didn’t care that I only made $6.50 an hour and couldn’t afford my bill – I didn’t pay – so they cut it off. It stayed off for 2 weeks.
>>>I’ve seen less qualified and less talented people get a job instead of me because they “had a better look.”
>>>I didn’t have a contract renewed because the boss said “I just don’t like you.”
>>>When I was a “rookie journalist,” in front of an entire news station, my boss said, “Until further notice, Amanda Goodman is not allowed to be on TV.” She warned me that I was too concerned about “being a TV star and not a journalist.” So I re-learned how to write all over again…and I was off the air for three months.
>>>Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Years, Easters…every single holiday…I have worked. It didn’t matter that “I wanted to see my family.” I was told, “the news doesn’t stop…we’re always open.”
There were nights I cried myself to sleep. There were days I threw things at the wall. There were mornings I screamed, “THIS SUCKS!! LIFE IS NOT FAIR!!” I had my fair share of pity-parties for myself.
But here it is…it’s not what life throws at you. It’s how we respond. That’s what will define us.
It’s about taking all of the criticism, doubt and hate that is thrown at you…and saying “be patient…I’m just getting started.”
Just when you think about quitting, remember why you started.
Manners. Integrity. Honor. Sincerity. Work ethic. Determination.
That defines us…
And it’s characteristics like THOSE…that others will judge us on.