“Either our lives become stories, or there’s just no way to get through them.”
- Claire Baxter, Generation X
It's time to unpack my brain. The big pause of a few weeks ago has left my mind fertile with ideas. If I don't unpack them soon, my head will explode and that could get real messy, real quick.
I've been thinking a lot about my generation this week and where we fit in or don't fit in.
As Matthew Hennessey said, we’ve been:
sandwiched between the twin generational behemoths known as the baby boomers and the millennials. Culturally, politically, socially, technologically, and economically, the torch is being passed from the older generation to the younger one or the one in the middle is mostly being ignored. With the baby boomers on the way out the culture is turning its attention to millennial needs, millennial tastes, millennial peculiarities and millennial preferences.
Generation X is at best an afterthought - when we are thought of at all.
We've kind of been forgotten (even worse than being lost) overshadowed by the millennials in just about everything. Apparently we're going to be the first generation to not have one of our own as POTUS. The millennials are just too hot and will get one of their pack in the White House before us.
Maybe that has something to do with us being a generation of slackers. I know I certainly wouldn’t want the job. Heck, I dropped out of the race to be a colonel or general when I left the military at the “five and fly” mark, which is to say I did my mandatory 5 years and then hauled ass out of there. And when I was knee-deep in the corporate salt-mines, I harboured no aspirations to be a top exec or a CEO. Hell, I don’t even like being the boss of my own company. I’d much rather be a Dharma Bum and a card carrying member of the “rucksack revolution.”
“I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ’em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures …” ― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Being a boss smells too much like the system. Don’t panic though! I know I have to play the game unless I want to go all Brill on you and drop out and off the grid completely. I love the Internet too much to do that!
"The world doesn't owe you (or me) any favours!"
I’ve decided today that I want to embrace my Generation X-ness. In fact, I’m happy to be the underachieving poster boy for Generation X. What’s wrong that eh? There are enough granola eating, save the planet, don’t eat meat people out there running around preaching to folks to be the best version of themselves. The world doesn’t need another voice (certainly not mine) to add to the self-help, well-being trope.
(Does that sound harsh to you? I don’t mean it to be. I’m just trying to say that I don’t have any answers, just more questions. For me, the thrill of the game is figuring it out for oneself. And that means talking to each other, challenging each other, supporting each other, sitting around the metaphorical campfire and sharing stories together that encourage us to think about our place in the universe.)
“We spend our youth attaining wealth, and our wealth attaining youth.”
In the spirit of embracing my Generation X-ness, I’ve started going back through the Generation X canon, starting with Ben Stiller’s classic Generation X film, Reality Bites starring some of my favourite Gen Xers - Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, and of course Ben Stiller.
“Oh, but what’s money to an artist, to a philosopher…it’s just green coloured paper that floats in and out of his life like snow.”
Side fact - when I saw Reality Bites for the first time, I immediately went out and bought a camcorder so that I could start making little mini documentaries like Lelaina does in the film. My desire to make videos was fanned even more from watching bucket loads of MTV Europe (it was 1 of 2 English channels I could get on German TV) when I wasn’t out in the field or deployed somewhere.
Oh and let’s not forget MTV’s Real World and the likes of Puck! The Real World also inspired my desire to make documentary style videos - ones that captured the everyday, the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Your Musical Intermission
As is my nature, I always like to go back to the source. The Generation X tag was brought to life by Canadian writer, Douglas Coupland in his 1991 debut novel: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
If you want to get back in touch with your inner Generation X self, then this is the place to start. Coupland defined us.
Fiercely suspicious of being lumped together as an advertiser's target market, they have quit dreary careers and cut themselves adrift in the California desert. Unsure of their futures, they immerse themselves in a regime of heavy drinking and working in no future McJobs in the service industry.
Underemployed, overeducated and intensely private and unpredicatable, they have nowhere to direct their anger, no one to assuage their fears, and no culture to replace their anomie. So they tell stories: disturbingly funny tales that reveal their barricaded inner world. A world populated with dead TV shows, 'Elvis moments' and semi-disposable Swedish furniture.
Remember how we took stick for opting for the McJob:
A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one.
I don’t want to spend my life collecting objects. I’d rather collect experiences.
You really have to wonder why we even bother to get up in the morning. I mean, really: Why work? Simply to buy more stuff? That’s just not enough.
The truth is:
The only reason we all go to work in the morning is because we’re terrified of what would happen if we stopped. We’re not built for free time as a species. We think we are, but we aren’t.
There are loads of gems in this book. Go read it.
The Bad Cigar Lady
Since feelings come first, the distance in my mind grows luminous with bright yellow faeries that drown in the human soul. One day I would like to return to Ever-Ever Land where sweetness is normal and the bad cigar lady takes it lying down.
Courage is fear.
And when the Spring returns, the robin outflanks the talented children so truly perfect like flowers of stone.
WeirdBoy: Hey man, when was the last time you looked into the abyss?
SoulCruzer: I'd like to think I was past all of that existential dread stuff. I mean I looked into the abyss and there was nothing there. Just a black hole.
WB: You sure weren't just looking into a mud-hole, Homes?
SC: No. It was the abyss alright. I saw no- thing, no point, no purpose, no meaning. nada.
WB: I saw some dude on YouTube talking about life being absurd and how if you didn’t gaze into the abyss you'd fall in.
SC: The absurd is not so bad. It means you get to make up your own meaning.
WB: I don't know man, sounds like a lot of work to me. Besides, how do you know if you’re right?
SC: You don't. But the point is, it doesn't matter anyway.
SC: It's true freedom.
Here’s great little Youtube find on leadership:
DICKS: Do you need to be one to be a successful leader?
Alright good people, it’s time for me to pop smoke. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and thanks for your time. I hope you’ve had a pleasant week.
Peace and love,
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