Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reality: Still Biting

Several posts back I wrote about the competitive nature my fellow Gen X peers and I seem to have when comparing our financial woes (Bragonomics). It was written 3 months ago, and the incident that inspired it was 3 months prior to that.

Since then, I’ve seen a shift in the discussions among us. Continued economic downslides and family crises have lessened the novelty of the recession. It’s no longer a fascinating time in history that is affecting us for a short while; it is now some serious muck we’re mired in. We’ve shifted from gabbing about it over drinks to internalizing our stressors quietly, especially the effects they are having on us.

A few days ago the author of the site are you there god? it's me, generation X ( wrote:

“Gen X is said to be the most neglected generation in American history. The experts say the Gen X childhood and teen years were marked by profound loneliness (all those cartoons, all that cereal), and followed by an even lonelier, more stressful adulthood (the worst recession in 75 years; booms and busts, and oh, BTW, how am I going to pay for my kids’ college education?) Of course, nobody will admit to being lonely or stressed on Twitter.”

JenX, let me profess loud and clear, I AM LONELY AND STRESSED.

And I know my friends are, too. I read it in their Facebook posts, even when they try to disguise it.

I try not to whine. I know everyone is going through multiple issues in their lives. Mine are no worse than theirs, but they are MINE. I have a stack of medical bills (even with insurance!), a job I’ve outgrown but can’t break free from, graduate school studies, two family members with serious health conditions, and a bank account that never seems to get out of the kiddy pool. My house is worth $30,000 less than what I owe on it. Likewise, my friends are facing unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, infertility, divorce, children with learning disabilities, parents with Alzheimer’s, cancer.... Some of them are dealing with 3 or 4 of these things all at once. For all our efforts to be responsible, productive adults, we’re feeling like the punching bag generation.

Gen X-ers still have a strong sense of self reliance despite what older generations might say. We want to make it on our own, to be successful and comfortable through our efforts. But unlike our parents and grandparents, our sense of pride is different. We’re not above admitting when we’re on a losing streak. But at the same time, we don’t want to appear weak, as if we can’t handle what life throws at us.

We want to lean on each other, but we don’t want to be a burden, even emotionally. We want to encourage our friends when they’re dejected, but some days we can barely hold up our own heads up. It’s hard to inspire others when you’ve lost your own faith. But we hope for and rejoice in bits of good news in anyone’s life as it gives us a glimmer of hope that something in this world is going to turn for the better.

Not Alone, But Still Lonely
I have a loving husband and wonderful friends whom I can count on for levity. My Facebook page is a portal across the miles to friends past and present. Thank goodness for those daily doses of baby pictures and corny jokes. They divert me from my stress for brief moments. Yet, I feel lonely.

I’m lonely for a time and place where my paycheck was more than enough.
I’m lonely for friends who are always in a good mood because their lives are all falling into place.
I’m lonely for friends whose eyes don’t well up when I ask how everything is going, even though they say “pretty good.”
I’m lonely for the babies my friends realize they will never have.

I don’t have the answers yet. I don’t know how we’re going to get through all this. I know we will, because we’re resilient. But in the moment we’re mentally bruised, and tired, and struggling.

What are you lonely for?


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you that Gen X-ers are strong, proud, able and self-reliant. All of my friends prove that day in and day out through their thoughts and actions. Times are crappy right now and, unfortunately, we're smack in the middle of them.

    Thankfully, unlike some baby boomers, the economy is not going to drown us. It's only a fallen tree-albeit a large one-to jump over or step around. How we manage ourselves from now to that point will help define each of us as well as how other generations perceive us.

    Lonely is not exactly the word I might use; I miss.

    I miss that paycheck...any paycheck. I miss going to far off places to visit. I miss the parents that used to take care of me, converse with me about places they'd visited, things they'd done; rather than the same boring subject over and over and over, even though I've heard it that many times.

    BUT, I'm thankful that I CAN find a job; CAN still get away, though closer to home; and CAN see my parents alive and healthy whenever I want.

    As hard as it may be, it is SO important to not dwell on the loneliness and despair, the roadblocks and aggravations, but rather grasp the small triumphs, inadvertent joys and unadulterated love we experience every day. Without that rope of happiness times like these will crush the mightiest soul.

  2. Dead on. May I write my own variation of this next week? Too often I get the feeling that our generation grew up on values and ideals that no longer apply. My life, on stage, has the appearance of greatness, and yet privately there is the feeling inside me that we as a generation have been severely short changed. Unfortunately, despite those values and ideals, I never learned how to scream out in protest...

  3. taking a big deep breath right now. this is a great post. very honest. this is what comes out when you blog anonymously. never, ever go public. when you do, the truth will be sacrificed. great, great job. i will think on this; read it again and come back and post a comment later. the line that really struck me - lonely for babies they'll never have. i hate that reality for some...

  4. Great post. I'm 1966 so a little older but I get it. My husband lost his job 2 months after we moved into our 'dream' home last year and was off for 14 months. He's working for a start up so still no paycheck yet. It's been challenging to say the least. The only thing that has sustained us through this whole thing is faith. Faith in a power higher than our own means. Our faith is in God. It's interesting because I was raised by borderline hippie parents who said that religion was a personal choice that I would need to make when I grew up. They shared that they believed in God but didn't haul me off to church every Sunday. Grandma would come and take me every so often so I didn't go to hell. I didn't get baptized until I was 30 and had my first child. Because I had to make my personal choice. I'm glad I did because there have been weeks that I had no idea how we would pay the next mortage and all I had was faith and prayer. Then an escrow check I wasn't expecting, or a bigger than planned tax check would show up or something that would get us by until the next. I couldn't have done this without Him. I'm not raising my kids to wait and decide on their faith. I'm telling them and showing them every day, this is where it's at, don't you forget it. Just try prayer for awhile and see if it doesn't help with that loneliness and fear factor. It's not an 'easy button' but it beats lying on the floor crying in the closet which is what I did on a few of my darkest days.
    I write about our journey called Lessons from the Recession -

  5. @VAODIVA: Your prediction was inspired...and inspiring, "How we manage ourselves from now to that point will help define each of us as well as how other generations perceive us." I wish I'd thought of that. I'm going to hold onto that.

    @ERIK: YES, I wish you would write your take on the theme! There's still time for you to learn to scream.

    @JENX: THANK YOU for linking this on your site, and for your reassurance and encouragement.

    @REBECCA: I completely empathize with your situation. We've been saved by an unexpected escrow check before, too. Faith is something I've written about but haven't put out there yet. I have such conflicting feelings on it and haven't been ready to share it all. Thank you for taking the time to write such a personal comment.

  6. JenX sent me...what a honest and dead-on post! I am not worthy

  7. I know just what you mean when you say that despite having a loving family and good friends, plenty of connections via FB, Twitter, etc. And yet still feel lonely. I rarely feel like I belong.

    Sometimes I can't help wondering if this sense of loneliness was engenderd in so many GenXers early on in our lives that it is hard-wired in a way. To that point I can't help worrying that I've grown so used to my lonliness, my sense of not belonging that I'm unwilling to give it up, you know.

    Like the line from that Nirvana song, "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Regenge on Seattle":

    "I miss the comfort in being sad."

  8. Just reading this post, two months late. I love it.

    What I miss - other GenXers!! We live in Manhattan, and most of the GenXers have fled NYC for the suburbs. I can't blame them - I just really miss them! We are surrounded by Boomers and their children. Ugh - for me, the Millennials are the worst. Maybe it's because they come with Boomers attached, aka their parents, who have to come to the city to visit them. Problem is, when they arrive, those Boomers act as if *they* are the 20-somethings. I really miss the companionship of other parents our age, with children over the age of four.

    Oh and yes - everything else you said.