Forty-one and Done

I’ve known this post was coming for the past six months. Last fall, I’d take every article about Gen X I could find from the Atlantic and write a two thousand word essays about it. By January, I was simply providing a monthly post linking to such articles. By May, I realized I hadn’t even done that in a while and was stumbling upon lots of worthy articles that had been published in the past few months. The thing is, I wasn’t even reading those articles myself anymore.

After about a half a dozen articles on Gen X, I realized they all hit on the same handful of points and maybe extrapolate a bit into new territory but never very far. One of the impetuses (impeti?) for this blog was that nobody writes about Gen X: everything is about Boomers or Millenials. Perhaps as a result of that, every Gen X article starts out with the same sort of almost archaeological intrigue (oh look, we’ve finally unearthed Molly Ringwold’s long lost underwear!), which is kind of cute at first but gets a bit old if you’re reading a lot of them. And most of them seem to pass that information along as if it were reason enough to write the article, which you can’t necessarily fault the authors for, but eventually it looks like that time when everyone in the household tries to pull start the lawnmower that you know isn’t ever going to run without some major repairs. Meanwhile, the sheer volume of articles being written about the Beatles or Miley Cyrus is such that there is no need for an introduction: they are allowed to become dialogue in an actual conversation. But how do you have a conversation with a generation that has never shared a common story?

I started the weekly music articles hoping to stall for a bit of time to write other things without worrying about the blog lying vacant for weeks on end. The thing is, I don’t know enough about pop culture to really know what I was talking about most of the time. I certainly don’t know enough about music to do so. My opinions aren’t any more valid on any of these things than anyone else’s, so why am I the one sharing them?

Eventually I stopped caring enough that I didn’t even check all my facts before publishing something. A week and a half ago, I tried to publish a post on careers that I had started back in March, but wordpress was being buggy that day, and I didn’t spend more than half an hour trying to find a way around it. That’s when I knew I was done: even though I had about three more music articles I wanted to write, and a handful of articles on other things that I’d been putting off for the past six months.

So it’s been a year. I don’t know if anybody else found anything useful from this, but for me it was about finally coming to terms with being middle-aged after what seems in retrospect like a few decades of extended adolescence. All these things happened once and were meaningful in their own way, but now here we are with responsibilities and the memories of otherwise forgotten revolutions. Each generation has its own unique flavor, but at the same time very little changes: the youth of today seem as obtuse to us in their own way as we did to the adults when we were young. No matter how much we told ourselves we’d never look down on the next generation’s rock and roll, nothing could prepare us for Miley Cyrus and umbillically attached cellphones. All our culture wars are lost on the shores of radical compliance that followed in their wake. And looking back it seems so silly that we didn’t listen to the tales of the battles (oftentimes literal battles) our own elders fought, especially since our forgotten wars seem so vain by comparison. All our tales of dangerous playground equipment and riding in the trunks of cars smack of some oldsters uphill both ways, except just a little bit more watered down. There is absolutely nothing new under the sun. The inevitable rhythm of the generational tides seems to dictate every option available to us. If we try to go against it, we become exactly what we promised ourselves that we’d never be. If we follow it’s flow, it’s hard to imagine we are actually doing any favors to those generations that will come after us.

This is middle-age. This is us now. I have nothing more to say. This is the end.


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