Generation X, let’s not get nostalgic

Earlier this week, a few people on Twitter were freaking about the fact that freshmen entering college this year were born after Kurt Cobain killed himself. And….? Is it supposed to remind us that time has passed and continues to pass? Is it supposed to make anyone who remembers Nirvana’s music feel old?

If I were going into college this year, my thought would be “Who the hell cares?”

I’ve never embraced the term Generation X (even though I enjoyed the novel by the same name and have read most Douglas Coupland books). But I do have many of the symptoms of Gen X: a decades long crush on Winona Ryder, memories of an Atari 2600 addiction, watching Raiders and Empire in a theater, listening to more grunge music than I care to admit, watching Challenger blow up while teachers cried at school. You’ve got a cultural touchstone? I remember that too! We share that! Yay!

Here’s what I remember more vividly: Baby Boomers forcing their nostalgia down my throat. They were the age I am now, endlessly talking about how historically important their Summer of Love was, declaring the music of their youth the best ever, inflating the relevance of memories they couldn’t let go of.  Memories they wallowed in because their ’60s dreams died in the ’80s. “I saw a Dead Header sticker on a Cadillac… Don’t look back, you can never look back.” Not only did Baby Boomers look back, they made EVERYONE look back with them.

Generation X, we are now at the age where we need to be reminded to not look back. Let’s not get nostalgic and pretend our memories have any cultural value to anyone other than ourselves. The world now is amazing compared to then. It’s possible to do practically anything you want to do: publish books, make movies, create music, animate, design, pickle things (?), communicate with people in other cultures. Don’t start with the “Yeah, but before everyone had a cell phone people would–” SHHHH. Stop it! No one cares!

And if you’re a Millennial… first stop calling yourself a Millennial. I know many of you are amazingly gifted and embrace all the awesomeness of the time you’re living in, while some of you are too busy declaring your innate specialness because you’re a Digital Native, as if that’s a thing that even matters in 2012. I just want to warn you that you share a lot of traits with Baby Boomers when it comes to thinking the world revolves around you. So set a reminder to not be nostalgic in the future.

To all people, regardless of when you were born, please don’t be nostalgic. Nostalgia seems harmless but it’s toxic and it makes you less interesting. And if you’re wondering if this rant is just a reminder/warning to myself, I can assure you it is.


8 Replies to “Generation X, let’s not get nostalgic”

  1. The fellow who rents a room from us … he’s 32. He lamented about how ‘world weary’ he was. I, who am … we’ll, I’m not 32 … found him just. so. very. ADORABLE.

    If 32 leaves him world-weary, then his forties will leave him crying like a little girl.


  2. Hi Mike, thanks for this.
    I think I agree with you…I never really thought about how we X’ers were kinda forced the Boomers’ ways…I mean I love a that old music and the more I think about it, yeah, I can now relate many commercials, movies etc. that were clearly from a Boomer’s point of view.
    But…Nostalgia itself is a good thing if shared with those close to us, just not forced down others throats as you said.

  3. I don’t understand why people born during the years for Generation X say they don’t embrace it. Embrace what? The years you were born as defined by the term Generation X. “Embracing” Generation X does not mean necessarily mean you listened to Nirvana, wore leg warmers, flannel or a boy-toy belt. I wish the term was not the pejorative it’s become.

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