An increasing number of my friends have been reading and posting about an article by Ada Calhoun, entitled “The New Midlife Crisis.” In a nutshell, it describes how Gen X women are overwhelmed, exhausted, and depressed, and it illuminates very specific and valid socio-economic reasons why we should be. It’s a solid read--well researched, thoughtful--and it hits close to home for a lot of reasons. In fact, it hits so close to home, it’s painful to get through it. It makes me a feel a distinct kind of hopeless. And that’s why I feel compelled to raise my hand and say this: If all of us are screwed, you guys, then none of us are. None of us.
Hear me out here.
Whenever I consume media about the folks in my generation (and I am technically a member of the Oregon Trail generation rather than a full-fledged, proper Gen Xer), the gist of it is that people my age are some sort of neglected, latch-key, sandwich group, never to enjoy the safety in cultural numbers that either generation before or after us enjoyed. According to some pundits, we’ve always had it bad. We’re neither Boom nor Millennial, and therefore we will never get to have what they have. According to “the reports,” we’ve been screwed since the day we arrived, and, by the way (as pundits sometimes love to remind us) don’t we know that? Aren’t we scared? Aren’t we worried?
Sure. But in that, I would argue, lies exactly the gift and the strength of our generation. Just like a mildly well-adjusted middle child, we get that there are plenty of reasons we could feel overwhelmed, stressed, and slightly cheated by our generational birth order. But the truth is, we’ve never really had it another way. We feel all those things, but not with the same perspective of any of the other generations. We’re used it to it, so it feels normal. I don’t say that in a hopeless, defeatist way—just the opposite. We have been bred to be resilient in a way that differs from the generations around us. Sure, it bothers us, but we’re used to being slightly uncomfortable. It’s kind of our superpower.
See, we are a generation that has been able to function before, during, and after some pretty profound cultural shifts. We grew up in a time when there was no such thing as the internet. We did our elementary school reports using encyclopedias, and then, when they invented Google, and we used that to do stuff instead. But we could still use the encyclopedias if we had to. We’re not afraid or confused by technology, and we’re also not totally dependent on it. We could still get the report done using either set of tools. We’re not wringing our hands over the changes. We’re cool either way.
We grew up in a generation where divorced parents were starting to be the norm. Where entertainment and news distinctly melded. Where gaming systems went from Commodore 64 to Xbox One. Where computers went from being Apple IIEs to freaking IPhone 10s. Think about that—and the level of flexibility and tolerance you have to have to be able to hang with that. Then think of how little fear we feel at enduring those kinds of changes.
I’d argue, in fact, that we’re the generation that doesn’t just hang with change, but is used to making the best of it. We are savvy to Waze, but who could also read a map if we had to. We store stuff in the cloud, but if our phones die, we still know our spouse’s phone number. We can joyfully post cat videos to the interwebz, but, mercifully, did not have every moment of our idiotic teenage years documented in painful detail thanks to social media.
Guys, we’re a generation who might all completely agree with all the stuff in this article. But we’re also a generation that has coped with that level of weirdness and uncertainty and change before, and guess what? WE WERE COOL. WE CAN HANDLE IT.
Our generation is like the kid who has spent their whole life riding on the hump in the middle of the backseat. We slide around a little more, but we’ve learned where to put our feet so we can brace ourselves for the curves. We don’t get carsick because we can see out the windshield. When we need to fall asleep, we can lean either way, and we’ll find a shoulder that will hold up our head. The window seat is awesome if you can get it, of course – but we rarely get it, so we’ve adapted all along. That is our strength. We’ve developed a tolerance for being uncomfortable. And that means we can hang with whatever life is bringing us.
So, trust me. That article we’re reading may be absolutely right. We might all be screwed in very distinct and specific ways. But the truth is, we’re used to that. In fact, we’re built for it. So, if we’re all screwed, guys, then none of us are. None of us are. And don’t you forget it.
Hi. I'm Amanda Dobbs.