I’ll admit it, I love that my parents never really got me. I love that my kids give me the “my dad is so weird” look while trying to process my latest sarcastic remark. I love that in spite of being the smallest generation over the last century by almost half, Generation X has effectively changed the world to meet our needs. Please Us. DO WHAT WE WANT!!! Because, according to the generations that have gone before, that’s what being a Generation Xer is all about. It’s all about me.
Never mind that the end-all of human existence for many of the WWII generation was getting their picture in the paper or their name on a wall. Forget about the fact that Baby Boomers made us suffer through the Hippie movement and all of its “Finding Yourself” garbage. (No really, please forget about it. Baby Boomers have been trying to forget about it themselves for years.) No, when it comes to self-centered narcissism, supposedly no one does better than an Xer.
If you don’t believe me, here are a few examples of our naked selfishness at its worst:
–I won’t join Rotary. Generation Xers are, for the most part, refusing to follow in the tradition of their forefathers by joining civic groups and clubs. They don’t see the point. If their experience is anything like mine, they are invited to attend one of these meetings where they are subjected to mediocre food, odd renditions of songs sung by the entire group that were outdated during the Lincoln presidency, silly traditions like referring to each other as “Lion George” or “Lion Stanley”, and then comes the program.
When I was four-years-old, a lady in my ward (who would later become one of my most favorite people in the world) went on a trip to The Holy Land. When she came back, she invited my parents (and me by extension) over to view her innumerable slide collection. About an hour in, my little four-year-old self couldn’t take it anymore. I was beyond bored. I have never felt that bored again…until I listened to “Brother so-and-so” at a Rotary meeting talk about a recent trip he had taken. He went forty-five minutes strong without breathing. Through the whole experience, I kept thinking, “There are so many better ways I could be spending my time.” It was a safe bet I wasn’t going to join anyway, but the program cinched it.
Now, I don’t, in any way, want to suggest that these clubs cease to exist. For those who are a part of them, I am sure they fill a purpose. But just let me write a check for ten dollars to…whoever, and let me be on my way.
I don’t want a plaque, I don’t want a party, I just want a check. Most Xers I know feel the same way I do. Don’t waste money buying me something in order to recognize my accomplishments. If you like what I did, especially in the workplace, save the money and just give it to me directly. I don’t want my picture in the paper. I don’t want a cake. Just show me the money, baby, and let me go spend it how I want to.
Loyalty only extends as far as my paycheck. Right after I graduated from ASU, I went to work for the FedEx Corporation. During my training, I met tons of baby boomers who expressed that they, “bled purple.” I didn’t say it out loud, but to myself I thought, “Well that’s stupid. Because FedEx bleeds green, and they don’t give a rat’s rear-end about you.” Shockingly, my tenure at FedEx Corporation lasted no longer than three tumultuous years. I couldn’t stomach the constant use of the words, “Great New Opportunity” as way to describe the latest way they had found to screw me and my fellow employees. And that brings me to another way in which I am a self-absorbed Xer. I despise being condescended to. Which leads me to my last example...
I will not take abuse in order to achieve or hold onto a status. If someone wants me to serve on a board, be ready for my opinion. If my opinion is not what you want to hear, kick me off the board or get over it, I really don’t care which. I have no desire to be the president of anything, and being on any committee, board or whatever, really just means more of my time being taken up. I will serve, but don’t think my membership on said…whatever, means anything to me, because it doesn’t.
Now why am I talking about this? In my upcoming novel, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, one of the key plot lines revolves around the main character and his struggles with his father, many of which can be attributed to generational differences. It is a subject that fascinates me. And here’s why.
To most people over 50, my generation was truly seen as obnoxious, selfish and ungrateful. But here’s something I’ve noticed in my life that makes me grateful to be born when I was.
My parents were amazing. I love them dearly. But there are differences in my relationships with my children and the relationship I had with my parents. My parents had their own music. Because of their influence, I love to listen to old Simon and Garfunkel songs or Neil Diamond or Chuck Berry or…the list goes on and on. But the interest was never reciprocated. Neither my mother nor my father ever expressed a desire to get their own recording of my latest Def Leppard single. They never seemed interested in singing along to Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi. And when I purchased Prince’s latest release, it wasn’t long before I was only allowed to listen to it with headphones or when both of my parents weren’t home.
A couple of nights ago, I was driving with my thirteen-year-old daughter somewhere when Bon Jovi’s latest single, Because We Can came up on my iPod. I started singing along. Within seconds she joined me. Because she had heard it on the radio and liked it. Then came Rumour Has It by Adele, followed by Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen. Both of these songs are recent releases and would be considered her music. But it was my iPod we were listening to. And we were enjoying it together.
Now I know music is a trivial thing, but the point is, my daughter and I have a lot in common. And those commonalities take effort on my part. I can talk to my daughter…actually all of my kids in a way I don’t remember being able to with my parents. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’ve talked with several of my friends and each has expressed something similar.
I’m not trying to imply that family wasn’t important to generations before mine, it was just handled differently. But the reason I don’t want to join a civic organization is because I don’t want to sacrifice the time it would take away from my family. I don’t feel a strong loyalty to a company or board membership because my first loyalty is to being home. Beyond that, I just don’t care. I don’t go to work for validation or recognition. I go because it pays for the experiences I want to have with my wife and kids. And if it ever stops doing that, or wants to get in the way of those experiences, I’m done.
And that is why I love being an Xer. I respect those who have gone before me from the pioneers down to my parents, teachers and mentors. But I like my life. And I like my value system. And sometimes, I like being viewed as selfish. Because when it comes to what is important to me, it’s true. I am selfish.
For more generational fun, look for THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER coming in August 2013. Or you can pre-order it now on Amazon.com and not think about it again until it shows up on your doorstep, right before your kids go back to school. Just click on the link below.