Perhaps one of the only positives about the current pandemic is that it is giving Generation X time to shine. As latchkey kids who spent a lot of time alone before the internet was even made public, Gen X is well-prepared to handle the isolation and quarantine that we are experiencing. Gen X is made to survive.
Generation X is the only generation in United States history to be worse off than our parents. We bought into the nightmare that is the American Dream. We went to college, got the degree, all while the cost of higher education ballooned to 300x more than what it cost our parents. We are buried in student debt while trying to buy and maintain homes, raise families, and take care of our parents who are the generation of excess.
Although I have had challenges in the pandemic in obtaining basic necessities such as food, I have been perfectly happy and content in quarantine. Staying home and hanging out with my cats doesn’t bother me. Sure, I would really like to see the new James Bond movie. But they have delayed the movie release due to the pandemic, so nobody is seeing it right now.
Gen X are the kids whose parents have the highest divorce rate in American history. Over 80% of us grew up in single parent homes. Often left home alone, we would spend hours amusing ourselves. We read books, played Atari, listened to the radio, rode our bikes, and talked on the phone when we were lucky enough to find the party line free.
For you young’uns, a party line was a type of landline telephone plan. Up to 10 houses on the street would share the same telephone number. So when the phone rang – it rang in all 10 homes. Everyone would pick up their line and try to figure out which person in which house the phone call was for. This also meant that you could listen to everyone else’s conversation. If you wanted to use the phone, you had to wait for people to get off the party line so you could make a call.
This may sound annoying, and it was, but it was also a godsend for us latchkey kids. On our party line, everyone knew when I got home from school, I would call my grandmother to check in to let her know I was home alone ok. This meant that all of the other houses on our party line also knew I was home alone. While this could be a bad thing, in my time, it was a positive. In the off chance that any of our neighbors were home, they “kept an eye” on us latchkey kids. If you did something to get yourself into trouble, the whole neighborhood would know with just one phone call.
In quarantine, I am living by my phone. Internet service here is unreliable. Cell service is only enough for text messages. The cell service is too weak to talk on the cell phone. Just like growing up, if I want to communicate with the world, I am dependent on my landline home phone.
People today are alarmed by this concept. They worry about me. I find you all to be funny. I’m Generation X. This is how I was raised. Gen X was made for this pandemic.
I have so many things I am doing in quarantine now that I have not done since I was a child growing up in the 1980s. My childhood prepared me for this. All those hours spent alone reading books, rocking out to the radio while swinging on the swing set. I have no problem with quarantine. I have books, radio, DVDs, podcasts. I have plenty of things to do. I am not bored. Gen X is used to playing by ourselves. We are used to being forgotten and ignored.
I honestly think that is why I am not having as much trouble in quarantine as other people older or younger than me. I know that my mom is a boomer. Boomers always have to be on the go. That describes my mother perfectly. They work themselves to the bone at the expense of their own bodies and their families. This is what Gen X has fought back against. We don’t want to be like our parents. We value work-life balance.
So while my mother has a hard time staying at home and constantly goes to the stores (I wish she wouldn’t), I am more content to stay home. I’m used to spending hours each day home alone from growing up. This pandemic is like my second childhood.
The generation that came after me is the Millennials. Those kids were so over scheduled growing up that they can’t sit still either. They don’t know what to do with themselves when the gym, the coffeehouse, and everything else is closed. Yes, they are better with all the technology than my generation, but they are used to always doing.
As a member of Gen X, I think we are the only generation that knows how to sit and just BE. We do not have to be constantly moving. We are able to amuse ourselves. We are the low maintenance, self-reliant independents that everyone seems to forget about, as we just sit in the corner quietly playing. People think we don’t play well with others because we are loners. I disagree. I think we play better with others because we work hard, pull our ow weight, and expect others to do the same.
If anything, I think that my mental health has improved in quarantine because I am not constantly rushed. I can pay more attention to what is important in life. I know how to amuse myself, so I am not bored. I have a landline telephone and can reach out for socialization when I need it. At least now, I have a private telephone and do not have to wait for someone to get off the party line.
This pandemic is time for Generation X to truly shine. This is how we grew up. We were made for this moment. We can stay home and flatten the curve. We can weather quarantine. It’s no different than being a latchkey kid. Except now we’re doing it in our 40s instead of at 6 years old. The world has changed and continues to do so. There is one thing I know – Gen X knows how to survive.
I saw a quote somewhere that said if all of life was an episode of Survivor, Gen X would win. Gen X knows how to survive. That includes this pandemic.
Once we turn the corner and the pandemic starts to end, Gen X is uniquely poised to guide us on how to recover from the pandemic. We survived our boomer divorced parents and made it to adulthood. We got this. We have survived many, many times, and can show the world how to survive this pandemic too.
In addition to Gen X being one of the smallest generations in American history, I would also argue that we are the most underestimated generation in all of history. Our boomer parents called us “slackers” and wrote us off. Unfortunately, that label has stuck. Yet it’s not true. We are the hardest working generation with the smallest return. We know how to work. More importantly, we know that work-life balance is imperative to survival.
This pandemic is Gen X time. This is our time to shine. We know how to survive this pandemic. When the pandemic is finally over, we know how to get beyond it too. Don’t write us off just because we are so adept at amusing ourselves. That doesn’t mean we’re not working on making this world better in our own small ways.
I have never been so proud to be a part of Gen X as I am right now. My childhood was a dress rehearsal for quarantine.
Generation X for the win!