In my classes this week, we have been talking about differences between different generations. There was the “builder generation,” my grandparents, whose mantra was “do it yourself”—build your own house., etc. These people tended to work “hands on” type jobs. They built cars and buildings and air conditioners. They lived through the Great Depression, and so they have a sort of frugal concept of money.
Then there was the “baby boomers”—my parents’ generation. These people came of age during the 60s and 70s—some of them became hippies, and then settled down. This was partly a post-industrial generation, who, instead of working in factories or on farms, usually went to college, achieved financial independence, and were generally happy with a middle-class, suburban life.
And then there is generation X—my generation. We are wary of marriage, having seen one of the darker sides of the sexual revolution—divorce. We like living in apartments in cities, not houses in suburbs. We are rootless and restless. We are the MTV generation—short attention spans, creative, and fearful of settling down and commitments. We are also a generation of debt—credit cards, student loans, etc. We tend to rely on our parents way more than our parents relied on theirs. This is partly our fault and partly the result of the massive corporatization of the financial industry.
And then there is “Generation Y” or “Millenials.” These are people raised by the older gen-Xers, who grew up being coddled and encouraged to do whatever they want with their lives. The plus is that they are creative and tech-savvy. The minus is that they tend to have feelings of entitlement—the result of parental coddling. This is the internet generation, the iphone generation, the ADD generation.
These are, of course, broad categories, and do not apply universally, but I think it is helpful to understand the differences between these generational mindsets. We are, in many ways, a product of our environment, our upbringing, our culture.
Thinking about these things can help us understand ourselves better. And maybe, with understanding, we can become aware of the problems within our cultural mindset, and choose to live our lives in new and creative ways, and not feel constrained to our generation’s worldview. I think there are things to be gleaned from each of these generations. I appreciate my grandparent’s “do it yourself” attitude. I appreciate my parents’ financial responsibility. I appreciate my generation’s creativity and independence. And I appreciate the millennials’ ability to multi-task, to innovate, and make the world a more connected place.
I want to take the best of these generations’ wisdom and apply them to how I live my life.