Looking at the charts put out, I understand that Gen Y – those born between 1981 and 1995/6ish are what everyone has grouped into this cohesive group called Millenials. To that, I say – one, why do we have to label everything, and two, if you are going to slap a generational label on me, do NOT let me be grouped in with Millenials. Please.
This is not an attack on the Millennial generation. I see them and hear them and love their spirit, determination, and willingness to just be. I just know that those kids born in a very short time – like three to four years – are not Gen X, but we are not Millenials. We are, in fact, Gen Y. Let me explain why I think this.
We were a generation in distress. We were following Gen Xers, who really shaped the culture we grew up in. So, why do I prefer to think of those of us born in the years between the “official” end of Gex Xers in 1980 and around 1983, 84 as GenY – not the Millenials we have been lumped in with? With such a short definition of time, can that distinction really matter?
Yes. So much changed in a short period that we do not fully fit in with either of these generations.
We were in the generation of kids who saw a change from only the winners getting praised, including us when we were younger, to get a participation trophy in the mid-years of youth. So…mixed messages. Alright, cool, cool – which is right? No one knows. The debate rages on. The Silent Generation, the Boomers, and Gen Xers love to mock kids who think they should be praised for just showing up. Millennials and Gen Zers think that they deserve positive reinforcement for trying. Those of us born in that three to four-year period experienced both, and we are just confused as hell.
So, coming to age as a kid with a lot of self-awareness, seeing what was happening to the world and the continually advancing tech and shifting culture, I was not the only one who had no clue what to do. Many of us grew up hearing casual racism, bigotry, and hate from everyone because they knew no better. We heard words like “super-predator” and then were given images of black people – yet we continuously saw evil in the guise of white faces…we saw the roster of disgusting crimes perpetrated by Bundy Gacy when they came up to be executed. We watched Jeffrey Dahmer and saw the end of the reign of BTK – who, when caught, had a white face. Everything given to us in the shifting culture was mixed messaging.
Even more, directly affecting us, we grew up at the beginning of this age that has become an open season in schools. Not one of us will ever forget about Columbine because we are the ones who had to go to school after. We got the mesh, see-through backpacks, and again got used to immensely shifting culture that directly affected us. We were scared every time a fire alarm went off, got copy cat letters and threats left in bathrooms, and dealt with the ever-growing fear of older generations as to what dangers awaited us on the dark and sinister net – not only were there predators but could it be turning us all evil? We can find out how to build bombs on there, ya know.
On the other hand, it is a useful tool, so kids were on there. Talk about super-predators. I don’t know a person my age who didn’t know about chat rooms and AIM. We were like the sacrificial lambs that figured out how exactly to make it better and slightly safer for those following us – with the sacrifice of our minds and, in some cases, bodies. We were way too innocent and naive in the world of online to have the access we did, but so be it. Someone would have to play the role we did, and we came out of it somewhat okayish.
That is what we are working with, however. That is where we grew up. Now people wonder why we have such different approaches to life than the generations before us – it’s because we grew up in a world of constant, often turbulent, never-ending change. We wanted to see ourselves somewhere, anywhere – but we simply didn’t.
How do you define yourself when you have access to things that no one else did at your age? You cry out for help. You see an increase in other people trying to define your generation – Goths, Emo, Lazy, Self-obsessed, Entertainment Obsessed – lots of obsessed. Patiers, Gen X, no Gen Y, no Gen Z, no MILLENIALS. Guess what, guys – if you don’t know what to call us, it’s because we don’t know who we are. Sure, we are figuring it out. We are all in our late 30s. Most of us have adult lives. We are adulting. But we are still figuring out who we are in a world where none of us have ever known where we fit.
So, what did you see? You saw shows coming out that were focused on kids and teens – and no, I am not talking about the afterschool specials. However, those were a terrifying addition to the generation raised to fear everything. I will go into that in a separate post. No, you started seeing shows like Beverly Hills, 90210; Saved by the Bell; Party of Five. These were shows that were extreme situations but made it clear that there was a need for the youth of the early nineties to see themselves somewhere, anywhere.
Then you got into the shows that really talked to us – the shows like Moesha and Dawson’s Creek. Even Degrassi imported from good ole’ Canada. These shows were not about kids who looked like they were in their late twenties and lived like it to – love you 90210, but looking at you here. They dealt with typical kids and real issues – yes, still heightened as they needed viewers but sexuality, the unrequited crush, school, being black in a systemically racist world.
Still – I remember watching the Jack storyline on Dawson’s and going well. That isn’t really the experience for everyone…but…okay, at least representation. Whether intended or not, they covered being gay in high school and the issues with femmophobia and misogyny significant in the gay community still today.
However, never fear – there was a show where every outsider of Gen Y could see themselves – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And yes. Despite the allegations against Joss Whedon and my strong beliefs, BtVS is still an important show and world to me, a place that gave me my own world and let me explore my own feelings about myself and my world. And that will be my next post – why I have such a deep love for BtVS and Marvel and how they helped me be okay being me – and why no one will ever take these worlds away from me.
And that is how I see it…