My class seemed to share that sentiment. While most of my classmates identified themselves as baby boomers, some chose “none of the above,” and some who said they were baby boomers felt that ours was another lost generation. That term was first used to describe the generation who fought and survived World War I. While our generation was not decimated by war, we have been caught in a generational no man’s land between the dominance of baby boomers and the technological momentum of younger generations.
We have paid a price for coming of age when we did. A 1998 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics examined economic and job data for three groups (older baby boomers, younger baby boomers, and Gen Xers) as they entered the workforce and began careers. Published in the Feb. 1998 Monthly Labor Review, it said: “Members of Generation X have sometimes been accused of complaining too much, and of being cynical and unmotivated. … With the possible exception of having a larger array of entertainment and other goods to purchase, members of Generation X appear to be worse off by every measure.”
Some Americans in their 30s and 40s have already started Boomer bashing. One poignant rant came from Lisa Bornstein in the May 18, 2007, Rocky Mountain News. “Tick, tick, Boomers. Your time is up. Put on your Rolling Stones T-shirts, climb into your SUVs and drive back to the exurbs you created. We’ll even let you crow about how you were gonna save the world. But for God’s sake, get out of the way.”
Standing at the fault line between Boomers and Xers, though, my Class of ’87 isn’t picking sides so much as it is bridging the generational gap. Members of my generation—which I define as those born in the ’60s—may not be true baby boomers, but we probably understand Boomers better than their parents did. We have benefited from their hard work, experimentation, their sacrifices, and even their tantrums. We’ve looked up to them without necessarily wanting to be them.
But my generation also knows what it’s like to come of age under the shadow of the numerous, boisterous, creative, and powerful baby boom generation. That knowledge binds us to those born in the ’70s and ’80s. We are the first generation to grow up entirely with television—just as today’s young adults have grown up without firsthand knowledge of life before cell phones or personal computers.
As each generation ages it begins to feel the pressure of younger masses pushing up from below. The statistics on Colby alumni represent what’s happening in our country. There are plenty of them out there, and the Boomers will probably be around for a lot longer then any previous generation. But they aren’t making any new ones. New generations keep coming, and Boomers (who are only 25 percent of all Americans right now) will find themselves increasingly outnumbered. Older baby boomers will be hearing more from my classmates and me, but I believe the real opportunity for my generation lies in its ability to span the gap between two very different eras.
As for me, I will cling to my self-appointed title as the last Colby baby boomer, but I’ll continue to see things through the eyes of my GenX classmates. Is my title significant? Probably not. But it did get me thinking about Colby, my classmates, and who we are as a generation. Like any good boomer/Xer hybrid, I will keep thinking about my generation’s glory days while worrying about its future.