4. Real relationships
We GenX’ers had friends. Even if some of them were actually jerks, it taught us how to handle awkward situations, deal with people, and communicate without being some kind of total jackass. If we wanted to play a 2-player Super Mario Brothers game, someone had to get on his or her bike and ride over to the other person’s house. Of course we didn’t get out as much as our parents did. Baby Boomers pretty much lived outside as kids in the 1950s and 1960s, but we still got together in the real world.
This morning at Starbucks I exchanged pleasantries, said “please” and “thank you,” and made eye contact with my barista. While waiting on my order, I noticed a young Millennial girl in super bright pink pants and hair that was dripping wet stare down at her phone, never bothering to look up, and mumble her order for some kind of frothy cappuccino drink that I’ve never heard of. “Uh-huh” was the extent of her vocabulary in that brief exchange. In my youth, if someone behaved like that we’d assume, correctly, that he or she was a snob. Today, I think it’s more about ignorance. That young girl in pink pants simply doesn’t have enough experience or practice in talking to people in the real world.
The older group of GenX’ers had no Internet. Those of us who grew up in the 1990s remember the AOL busy signal as we tried repeatedly to dial up using a 28.8 Kbps modem. The Internet was a novelty, and even then there were some flames thrown online due to the newfound anonymity of the web. Today kids are far more vicious online, whether anonymous or not. It seems like almost everyday a teenager is driven to commit suicide by the horrendous taunting at the hands of cyberbullies.
Let me share a bit of “old man” GenX wisdom. We were considered apathetic and aimless in our youth, and the big spending Baby Boomers worried about us, too. But no matter what age you’re living in, what you are in high school isn’t what you will be in life. Those labels don’t mean squat in the real world. Give it some time and you’ll discover your own power to set your life’s course. Be a little more like us and shrug it off as if you don’t even care. You Millennials tend to stress more than we did, so stop doing that to yourselves.