Lately, it seems like everywhere I turn there is an article or a tweet or a post about either a Baby Boomer or a Millennial. And if you think about it, one generation is preparing to exit the workforce while another is entering it. Just as many generations before have dealt with coexistence, so do these two very different generations.
Wait. What about me? And what about all the others, who, like me, are currently hanging out in their 40s? What about them? Generation X is small in numbers and seemingly forgotten, offering the illusion that we are not making an impact.
Oh, how I disagree.
We Gen Xers seem to be in the middle in more ways than one: We are sandwiched between two huge generations. We are lost amongst their differences and their strong desire to leave their own legacies. We also are in the middle of raising our kids. We don’t have a lot of time to be loud and in your face, because unlike the Boomers, our kids are in middle school, and unlike the Millennials, whose children are either in utero or still being spoon-fed, our kids play three sports year-round while we volunteer at their schools.
I know the people in my immediate circles are sick of listening to me complain about being the “Nobody Generation,” especially my Boomer parents and in-laws, who are so proud to be the kids of the Greatest Generation and so proud to be part of the largest generation that they haven’t bothered to understand “the Google” and so they still use the Yellow Pages. Speaking of differences, my Millennial sister-in-law? She has it all figured out: She has the technology to have the latest and greatest information regarding my nephews, and her parenting style is perfect and always on target because the American Academy of Pediatrics says so, or at least they did this week.
Being stuck in the middle is a big responsibility. We are the sole conduit for the Millennials to communicate with the Boomers. Basically, we know it all! That is a huge responsibility! Think about it for a minute. I can not only locate a book on Amazon that I want to read and then proceed to download it and read it digitally, but I also can find that same book using the Dewey Decimal System. I am really great at taking pictures with my phone and then backing them up on the Cloud for future use. I can also use a slide projector and an overhead projector, and I still have my first camera, a Polaroid. When my kids were born, I still considered my mother and mother-in-law viable sources for parenting information, but I was not so narrow-minded not to consider what thousands of other mothers had experienced, so I joined chat rooms. I hear so many younger people say things like, “That was OK then, but now we know better.”
But do we really? I think a huge benefit that my generation has over both the Boomers and the Millennials is our ability to see both sides, and then act accordingly. We are like glue holding this mess together. In the workplace, when it comes to maneuvering through the generational gaps, it helps to know that Boomers would prefer you keep your emails to the point and brief, no Millennial-friendly emojis, for example. My Millennial counterparts are more than happy to answer my emails or texts at any time of day, but my Boomer colleagues do not “do email” past a certain time of the day.
We are the glue on the home front, too. As I mentioned, my nephews are parented using the most up-to-date and preferred parenting methods the Internet can espouse. That can get extremely difficult and challenging, and so it is my job to talk my sister-in-law off of the proverbial ledge when one of her kids isn’t meeting milestones in sync with the latest guidelines the Internet has set forth.
We might not be large by the numbers, but Gen X is mighty in adaptability and willingness to change. Think about what we have endured. For one, when I had to write research papers in high school, I actually wrote them. On paper. With a pen. Then, I researched topics by using encyclopedias, the library and the card catalogue. Recently, when finishing an online class, I did all of the aforementioned things while sipping coffee on my couch.
I remember sitting backwards in a very large station wagon while my 3-year-old sister ran loose in the middle seat. I used a VCR with a cord. That was the first remote used in our home; it was attached via cord as well. This little mighty generation was so adaptable to change, because how cool was it to die of dysentery while “learning” to use a computer? We could not get enough of those early PCs. So we learned, we adapted, and we were so damn excited when had our very own email address in college—even though we had to pick up our phone attached to the wall in our dorm room to tell our parents about email.
It was us, the Little Generation That Could, that set the tone for the Millennials when they entered the workforce. How else would they know that flip-flops are actually not always appropriate? At the same time, we joined forces with them to finally change the dress code not to require pantyhose. We are currently hitting the middle point of our careers, and we have successfully proven that we can move with ease between the two generations that outnumber us by about 100 million, collectively.
Even if we are small, Gen Xers are still here, and we’ve proven our worth. Generation X, leave your mark—right smack dab in the middle!