Why Gen X-ers Are the Luckiest People on Earth

 When the grunge band Nirvana released Smells Like Teen Spirit in 1991, the poodle-permed and spandex-wearing rockers of the 1980s must have instantly known that the days of glam metal and big hair were over.

The world had changed. In an instant, glitter was out, and grunge was in.

As a less hairy Gen X-er, I know the feeling. My favorite rock bands started to run out of fuel at the end of the eighties, and I knew that their popularity wouldn’t return anytime soon once Kurt Cobain entered the scene.

It was comparable to the experience at work — circa 2010 — when I lost my corner office with a conference table, modern art, and rubber plants. That was the moment, I realized that I would always live in the shadow of the Baby Boomers — my parents’ generation — and a new generation was coming to town.

That feeling of being left behind by history.

So, perhaps it is true — what I read in the media — that I belong to a lost and frustrated middle generation. But — oh boy — was I (and they) wrong.

Being sandwiched between the Baby Boomers who enjoyed the economic security of post-war reconstruction and the younger generations — Millennials and Gen Z — who “enjoy” the new freedoms of growing up as digital natives, is the best place to be right now.

Squeezed in the Middle

One of the things that define us is the year we were born. I was born in 1969. So that makes me Generation X. No one likes labels, but now I am happy to call myself Gen X-er — a proud member of the sandwich generation.

Everyone of my age can probably tell a story of being squeezed in the middle — a story of a series of professional frustrations in which the job we started has been slowly transformed beyond recognition.

In the nineties, I was caught in the middle of making some difficult life decisions. Should I study technology or social sciences? I did a bit of both and ended up working as a corporate lawyer at a multinational company. The combination of technology and the law appeared to be a great choice. I was good at it and successfully followed the corporate career path.

And in the two-thousands, I reached one of my goals — an executive position and the large corner office that my Baby Boomer boss occupied for almost two decades before he retired with a well-deserved and healthy pension pot.

But the “rush” of having my own private kingdom with a conference table, art, and plants was short-lived. After a few months, offices were downsized, and I found myself sharing a much smaller office with one and sometimes two colleagues.

It didn’t take long before management announced the next step to save space and cut costs — the introduction of the open-plan office.

Now I had to fight for a good spot. It was a life with many of the stresses and burdens of a corporate hierarchy but with quickly diminishing perks.

My generation found itself caught in the middle. Gen X-ers work in a fading corporate world that was long dominated by self-centered and wealthy Baby Boomers.

And the Millennials and Gen Z don’t want to follow in our footsteps. They question our commitment to a corporate career and values.

So, why am I so happy now?

The Gen-X Colossus

Being “caught in the middle” has become a fantastic place to be. Gen X-ers have one foot in the analog world and the other foot in the digital world, experiencing the best of both. They are generally more digital-savvy than the Boomers but also know what it is to live in a non-digital era.

This position — straddling generations — means that Gen X-ers can more easily escape the twenty-first-century digital world. As for non-digital natives, they aren’t hooked to their screens and don’t feel guilty when they ignore social media. This take-it-or-leave-it attitude and the compass that comes from growing up in a pre-digital world is an advantage, not a burden.

For instance, Gen X-ers can enjoy what nature offers without the urge to take a picture and share it with an online community. They understand that life isn’t about gathering as many likes as you possibly can.

And Gen X-ers play an instrumental role in the design of the digital world. There are plenty of nice — and possibly not so nice — X-ers who hold much of the decision-making power in the worlds of politics and business today. They may not always realize it, but they have an opportunity to make the world a better place and bring together generations.

Time Travel

The roller-coaster ride I found myself in — with business travel and commute, suits, and full calendars with meetings all over the place — has now completely gone. Instead, I live in an amazing time machine that offers tons of choice.

Recently, I have been watching the martial arts comedy series, Cobra Kai, a sequel to the original Karate Kid movies from the 80s. Throw away nonsense, maybe, but seeing the original cast reprise their roles, without taking themselves too seriously, is a genuine pleasure.

Of course, work still dominates my life, but I now have more time to go for long runs in the morning, completely disconnected from the digital world, enjoying nature and being outside. It feels like going back in time to my lifestyle from the eighties.

The flexibility of today’s work environment also encouraged me to pick up reading and gaming again.

As a Gen X-er, I feel so lucky to be able to switch easily between the digital world of today and the analog world of my youth.

The feeling of living in a time machine enables me to enjoy life to the fullest.

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