Note: A version of this post first ran on Burbia.com back in 2009. The site no longer exists, so I decided to update it.
We were saddled with a bad rep from about the time we graduated from college, in the late 80s and early 90s.
“Slackers,” they called us. We graduated college and moved back home to live with the ‘rents instead of looking for a job. We just wanted to play video games and sit on the sofa, and maybe get a minimum-wage job, if anything at all.
But you know what? I don’t know anyone who fit that definition. Many of us graduated into a recession, where jobs were few and far between. No one, it seemed, was hiring, so we had to get creative. Some took internships. Some freelanced their way into jobs (me). Some went home temporarily to figure it out, sometimes taking a bartending job, sometimes not taking a job at all, but rather trying to make a go of it for themselves.
We were the latch-key kids. Every one of us either had divorced parents or lots of friends with divorced parents. When our parents didn’t know what to do with us, they stuck us in therapy. Or in front of the TV. (Why do you think they also called us Prozac Nation or the MTV Generation?) We discovered a some point in our 20s that we were the first generation in, well, forever, to have a lower standard of living than our parents by the same age.
We were, basically, handed crap sandwiches and told to eat ‘em and smile.
We didn’t. We tossed those sandwiches over our shoulders, realized no one was gonna help us get anywhere in life and scrounged up enough change to buy some Ramen. It may basically have been 1,000 percent of your RDA of sodium and air, but it tasted better ‘cos we bought it ourselves.
When I was still working for a major corporation, I used to hear everyone complaining about how their pensions were shrinking. I would laugh – out loud, actually – and tell them they were suckers for believing they’d have a pension. Everyone my age had figured out by the early 1990s that we were never going to get a pension. We never gave our loyalty to corporations because we saw we weren’t going to get any in return. Kind of like friends with benefits – we collected a paycheck, did our jobs well and didn’t doodle “Amy & Knight-Ridder” (anyone remember that company?) in hearts on our notebooks.
We were always comfortable with technology and the fact that it was so fast-changing because we were around for Pong then Atari and then Nintendo. I remember being sooooo jealous of a friend who got a Nintendo; she’d borne her jealousy well when I had an Atari before her. My parents, naturally, were not springing for the more expensive, more advanced model after shelling out whatever it was they did for the Atari. We did math games on glorified calculators masquerading as computers back in elementary school and by high school we had “introduction to computer” classes. We learned Basic and gleefully programmed our names to scroll across the black computer screens.
Now, as I look at my former classmates and contemporaries, I see a slew of entrepreneurs. Internet startups, freelancers, small business owners. When The Man decides it’s time for us to be laid off, we don’t start looking for other jobs; we just take it as a sign that we should try something else. We came into this workforce during a recession, and after we all became management or achieved whatever heights, many of us were kicked out again, into another recession.
That’s OK, that’s our comfort zone.
Being underestimated all our lives has its advantages.
We were subjected to Cabbage Patch Dolls, Strawberry Shortcake and Smurfs during our childhood. Unironically. And came out relatively unscarred.
Well, there was all that Prozac.
Photo by Jason Michael vis Flickr Creative Commons.