“So what generation are we?” asked someone in my grade nine history class, after listening to our teacher explain Baby Boomers and Generation X.
“Well, um, you’re Generation Y. I think.”
And so, my 1980 cohort went about our lives, happily labelled Generation Y. Until we weren’t. Suddenly, there was this new group – Millennials. They were young, they were hip, they were so not us, but they absorbed us into their clique, so we abandoned Generation Y and went with it. That is until we hit our 30s and stuck out like old thumbs with these new-age, cutting edge, embodiments of youth. We were clearly not Millennials. This was nothing new to us anyway.
“Can we join you?” we asked Gen X-ers.
“No,” said Gen X. “Fuck no,” actually, because that’s how Gen X rolls.
Now what? For years, this group of people born between 1977-1983 wandered aimlessly, with no identity. Too old to be Millennials, too young to be Gen X, and too short a time period to be considered a generation unto ourselves. We were the lost generation, until someone in their infinite creativity sought fit to name us. They called us Xennials. Gen X combined with Millennials. Get it? We weren’t even special enough to get a real name, just a derivative of the nearest generations. Like the great Brangelina before us, our new name stated clearly who we were, but sucked nonetheless.
We weren’t really surprised by this slight. We have never really fit in anywhere. This misfit non-generation has been the epitome of out of place since we were born.
I was conceived in the 70s but born in the 80s. I was born under a Prime Minister who was only in office for six months. My identity in terms of a defining generation was problematic to begin with. “Remember the Clark era? Those were some great – months.”
This strange gap has followed me and my Xennial peers our whole lives. We spent our childhood without the internet, but we can’t manage our adulthood without it. We were the first group to be warned of “stranger danger” on the web. I met my husband in a chat room, which felt shameful in a time when meeting someone in person that you met through the internet met you were desperate or they were a serial killer.
Gen X were adept at meeting people without the aid of electronics, Millennials begin dating almost entirely online, but Xennials met up with internet people under a cloak of darkness.
For the most part, Gen Xers have stable careers, houses, and many of the traditional things you come to expect when you become a grown up. Millennials have no such illusion. They’re screwed. Sorry, Millennials. But they know they are screwed, so they plan accordingly, with innovative, adaptable careers, and intentionally looking for awesome rental spaces. And because they are all screwed, there’s no stigma.
As a Xennial who doesn’t own a house, I’m caught in the crossroads of the pitfalls that trap the Millennials, but the expectations of Gen Xers. The barriers and the stigma. Team Xennial strikes again.
This being caught between places, never quite fitting in, is a metaphor for my life, and those of many other Xennials I know. We’re happy to finally have a name, but we know we still lack an identity. But some pretty amazing things have come from this struggle.
Several of my teachers in high school commented that there was something special about our years. They said we seemed extra driven and extra talented, but maintained our ability to be humble about it. We were exceptional, but we didn’t realize it.
Many of my peers went on to do incredible things. My Facebook feed is filled with professional actors, directors, Disney animators, heads of companies, champions of social justice – people who went for their dreams and achieved them. Recognizing early on that they didn’t have a place, they made one for themselves.
And the rest of us, who don’t have Steven Spielberg as our boss, carry the same life lessons we grew up with as a generation with no name. We cling to each other, and support and cheer each other on. Our generation is a group of helpers who seek to promote inclusivity. We are community builders.
Baby Boomers built industries, Gen Xers built systems, Millennials are building innovation, but we Xennials built people. To compensate for our lack of an identity, we formed a bond with each other, and we are a force to be reckoned with. We can’t be defined, and we have come to terms with that – but our contribution to the world will help define generations to come.