In a generational sandwich, we’re the meat – those of us born in the last years of the 1970s and first years of the 1980s. We exist between generations without belonging to either. Not accepted as Generation X who think us too young. They are the latchkey generation, the MTV generation with their love of grunge and hip-hop music. They find themselves now middle-aged while considering us still in our prime. We are also not accepted as Millennials who think us too old. They are the tech generation with their fluency in technology and social networking. Labeled as spoiled and entitled, free-thinking and optimistic, Millennials have never known a world in which technology did not rule.
Our early memories are full of bike rides and backyards. We were booted out of our houses after breakfast and told to be back at dusk. I doubt many Millennials are familiar with the term “dusk” in the same way we were. It was as important a time of day as breakfast, dinner or bedtime to us. We were the last of the free-range children running from yard to yard with our legion of friends. We did not practice stranger danger. Our parents did not helicopter over us in any way. We were free and it was fantastic.
There were no discussions of terrorism or terrorists while we were growing up. We would be adults before the tragedies of 9/11. The only drills we practiced in school were for tornadoes and fires. We were not taught what to do should an active shooter enter our school. Our school doors were not locked with passcodes and buzzers. There was no such thing as run, hide, fight. We were young, perhaps naïve but we were happy. Things were perfectly simple.
The technology in our homes consisted of corded landline phones, blocky television sets and VCR’s. I vividly remember using a cassette tape recorder to record the sound of The Cosby Show many ties when it was on past my bedtime. Televisions were in the living room and cartoons were only on Saturday mornings and then, only until our parents woke up. The television belonged to our parents and there was no confusion about it. Our phones allowed for no privacy. Hours were spent twisting the cord around our fingers while we leaned against other side of the living room wall catching up with our friends.
The first computers in our homes were a VERY big deal. They filled half of the living room. We used them to create banners on huge rolls of printed paper. We typed the Oscar Meyer bologna song into a program that would speak what we typed back to us in that computer voice. It was hilarious every single time the computer mispronounced bologna. As we grew older, we were introduced to our first true love, video games. We died of dysentery countless times on The Oregon Trail, we spent hours with our friend’s Atari playing Pong, Space Invaders and Centipede. I was not one of the lucky ones who owned an Atari. Though going without only made 1988 more amazing when Christmas day came and my sister and I unwrapped the most amazing present to date: The Nintendo Entertainment System. Our lives were never the same.
Most of us were in high school before ever hearing the word internet. The concept of the world wide web seemed too big to even comprehend. We plugged that phone line into the back of our system and entered an entirely new world. The endless arguments over why Millennials are so spoiled and entitled seems so obviously answered; they never had to dig deep within themselves for the patience and commitment day after day to log onto the internet through AOL dial-up. They never tasted the devastation of being kicked off the service when someone would pick up the phone. We stayed up late and got up early to fit in our chat room time without our parents kicking us off to make a call. A few of my friends I either considered rich or much more loved than my sister and I had a second landline in their home. Do you understand what that meant? They could be online any time they wanted! They could chat online AND talk on the phone! No parent interruption. AOL dial-up was character building for our generation. After developing that sort of fortitude, we unknowingly wrecked any chance of fitting into the Millennial generation.
So how do we function in a generation between generations? We simply accept it. We count ourselves lucky to have experienced the best of both worlds. There is no other group of people who grew up without technology but were young enough yet to learn how to live in a world full of it. We are every bit as reliant on technology as the Millennial generation but we are also as able to recognize the importance of putting it down as those from Generation X. I see it as having the best of both worlds. Not everyone gets to be the meat in the sandwich. That sure seems like the best part to me!