A generation stuck in transition

I was born in 1984. It was the year in which George Orwell set his classic dystopian novel of the same name. In reality, Big Brother didn’t come around until a few years later. (That’s another column for another time.)

Instead, the world got the “Ghostbusters,” George Michael and four more years of Ronald Reagan. Oh, and let’s not forget me and millions of other newborns.

Today, a little more than three decades later, the children of the early ’80s are an interesting bunch. Some of us are well into raising the next generation of Americans — the so-called “Boomlets” — while others are still raising hell.

In North Dakota, our age group — at least on the surface — is doing well. We are fortunate to be in an area where jobs are plentiful and pay well. Many of our peers throughout the country can’t say the same.

However, there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on: we are a generation without a classification.

My grandparents were part of the Greatest Generation, or the World War II Generation. My parents are early Baby Boomers. My brothers, both born in the early ’70s, are in the heart of Generation X.

But what about us born in the early ’80s? We fall at the tail end of Generation X and the beginning of the Millennial generation. While there are no precise dates for when the Millennial generation starts and ends, researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. That covers a pretty wide swath, particularly when you take into consideration that most of us were born pre-Internet while the youngest Millennials have never known a world without it.

Recently, I’ve read several columns that propose placing Americans in my age bracket into our own micro-generation. And I agree.

Writer Susan Singer describes us as “The Lucky Ones,” born between the generation that lives to work (Generation X) and the one that works to live (Millennials). A pair of columnists writing for Good magazine termed us Xennials. Writer Anna Garvey calls us “The Oregon Trail Generation” in reference to the popular ’80s video game played by millions of schoolchildren at the dawn of the computer age.

By and large, I agree with it all.

People born in early to mid-’80s and who grew up in ’90s don’t often fit the Generation X or Millennial cliches.

Much of this, as Garvey points out in her column, is because we grew up in a pre-social media adolescence. We then became the first teenagers and young adults to have most every facet of our lives consumed and dictated by the Internet.

We are the generation that still called the person we liked on the phone. (An actual phone. Connected to a wall.) We also chatted with them online. We learned how to perform a task without first consulting a YouTube video. We had parents who got their recipes from 50-year-old cookbooks, not one-day-old posts on Pinterest. We had to wait for the nightly news or the morning newspaper to find out who won a basketball game 25 miles away.

We are the generation that literally invented social media, but remembers how good life was without it. We were born into the Cold War, were in grade school when it ended and became the adults that fought the War on Terror.

Most of us got jobs before the Great Recession hit and we learned quickly the value our short workplace experience had over a piece of parchment we received from a college. Many Millennials found that out the hard way.

In life, we strike a balance between Generation X realism and Millennials optimism.

So what is our place?

We will no doubt be looked upon to recount to future generations a time when nothing in the world was connected with Wi-Fi and a pocket-sized computer.

So does that mean we destined to be the leaders of the Millennial generation? Are we simply Generation X’s little siblings that got lost in the shuffle?

Perhaps we will become something else entirely. Only time can tell for this transitional generation.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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