What? Gen X hitting middle age?

kiki1A while back I wrote an article about my generation and last year I read an article by Sara Scribner at SALON about Gen X’er hitting middle age. As a Gen X’er, I can relate. I suggest you read the article, it’s long, but there is a lot of interesting info. Here are a few excerpts taken from it. Generation X gets really old: How do slackers have a midlife crisis?

“There is a reason,” says historian and generational expert Neil Howe, “why members of Generation X have been cast as perpetual adolescents. Their parents – “the Silent Generation” – originated the stereotypical midlife breakdown, and they came of age, and fell apart, in a very different world. Generally stable and solvent, they headed confidently into adult lives about the time they were handed their high school diplomas, and married not long after that. You see it in Updike’s Rabbit books – they gave up their freedom early, for what they expected to be decades of stability.”

“The Xer in midlife is facing the opposite midlife than the Silent Generation,” Howe says. “The Silent experienced claustrophobia. Xers experience agoraphobia — everything is possible.”

But I think a lot of it comes down to the point that us Gen X’ers just haven’t realized we hit or are hitting middle age. The middle age we saw from our childhood is not the middle age we are at/approaching. When I was a kid, people my age were settled and firmly in their career, with their kids heading off to college.

That’s where this generation gets its reputation as reluctant to grow up. “It’s very hard to mature,” he says. “In order to mature and become an adult, you have to shut off options. The way Xers were raised, there were always options — their parents told them to keep options open.”

pink2I have changed career multiple times and only last year did it again. I started over (again) at 42 years old, new career, new state, and a new hair color. So many options, so much change available. Is this a good thing? Should I be settled down at this age, with a mortgage and 2.2 kids like the Baby Boomers were?

“There’s this incredible denial of middle age going on,” Patricia Cohen says. “It’s part of this extended adolescence now going into your 40s and 50s. People want to hang onto their youth, so in that sense you’re young-young-young ‘til you’re old.”

kikitravel1I can definitely say this is true about me. But I don’t know if it is that I want to hang on to my youth as much as I am just enjoying being who I am and not following the usual path. I am pretty sure being young for as long as you want to be is just fine and I am sticking to it.

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2 thoughts on “What? Gen X hitting middle age?

  1. You sum it up well with your last paragraph. One of the things I love about being GenX is that we are less confined to norms and conventional paths. They still exist but less so than at other points in history.

    • I truly believe that. I look at my parents generation and how unhappy some people were because they felt they had to take the same path generations before them had and were stuck. Some people love the traditional path and I am sure people before us knocked down some traditional role walls, but I do feel us Gen X’ers were just a little louder and more obvious about it and continue to knock down those walls.

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