Gen-X Manifesto

by Jean McCorkle
Originally Published: 

We are Gen-X, the Exceptional Generation.

We might be numerically half the size of both our parents’ and our children’s generations, but we make enough noise that no one—no one—can ignore us.

We maybe had loose morals growing up, but we also grew up with a deadly virus that attached very real consequences to our actions. That taught us to temper with caution the burning desire we possess to take our every action to the edge…sometimes just to see what will happen.

We grew up with drugs, perverts lurking in the shadows and warnings on every product. Still, we did not grow paranoid—we grew happy. We were considered street-smart by some and amoral by others. We are still.

We felt our angst as we grew and we rebelled, to be sure, but we adjusted. Therein lies our greatest strength: our ability to adjust to a world that never changed as rapidly for a generation before as it did for us. We saw the end of the Cold War and the explosion of AIDS. We saw a space shuttle blow up for the first time, but also we saw other technological wonders come of age alongside of us. As the first home computers, video games and the Internet grew, so did we.

We had no world war to help us define us as previous generations had. We had no enemy outside of ourselves. We clothed ourselves in eternal adolescence, accessorized with mockery and got respectable haircuts so that we could get jobs. That is who we are, even today.

Yet, we are a generation that can adjust to anything thrown at us. Change was the rule, not the exception, in our lives, and so we embraced it. We probably will throw it back at the world unwittingly at some point. Get ready. It’s all we know how to do.

We, as a generation, can be random, contrary and ambiguous. We are a melancholy group in one moment and are dancing passionately the next.

Many of us come from “broken” homes, but those homes made sense for us. Our parents, all of them, worked, and we had a lot of parents—stepparents, grandparents and step-grandparents (who sometimes acted as parents).

Most of us were latchkey kids. This made us independent and resourceful. It also made us value both freedom and responsibility. It gives rise to our dislike of authority and structure. At the same time, we can be flexible and tolerant. Remember random, contrary and ambiguous? This is Gen-X in a nutshell.

We are the grandchildren of the Greatest Generation, children of the Boomers and the parents of Gen-Z—the children who question everything. Our children are our greatest legacy, for through their curiosity they truly will change the world in ways even Gen-X can’t imagine.

You may never understand us completely. That’s OK. Just accept us, get out of our way and thank us when we’re done lighting the world on fire. Then get ready because we’ll hand it all over to Gen-Y, and then Gen-Z, soon enough.

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