Waiting to Fail – Advice from A GenXer

I’m a GenXer…raised in the 1980s. The generation of “Latch Key Kids.” We didn’t wear helmets when we rode our bikes, or elbow pads when we roller skated, if we had done so, our friends would have laughed at us. Our parents didn’t hover over our grades, they didn’t blame our teachers when we failed a test. We got our driver’s license the day we turned sixteen and had a part time job the very next day. We drove used cars, usually the cast-off family car, and we didn’t have GPS. We used a telephone and if we wanted to have a social life, we had to actually got OUT of the house to create one.

And we failed. A LOT.

Somewhere along the line, and I’m not really sure where, because there are still a bunch of us trying to raise our children the same way, things went haywire.

Somehow, we were convinced that our kids needed to have it easier. It started with “time out,” and making a child think about what they did wrong instead of paying a consequence.

And then we decided that if they weren’t doing well in school, it was the teacher’s fault for not teaching them. I’ve raised my kids in two different school districts, so I can attest to the fact that not every school district is created equal. Our current school district is far more superior than our previous district. But that comes with different pressures too. If you don’t fit in the “STEM” box , you’re going to have a tough time in school.

We decided that it wasn’t possible for teens to both have a job AND go to school at the same time. We made it harder for them to get real life experience. Having a job early on allows you to learn responsibility, with showing up and with your money. It’s also the ONLY time in your life you will get to PLAY with your money. You have no debt to pay off, you have no real bills. My first big purchase as a teen was a pair of black suede boots that reached just over the knee and laced all the way up the back. I still remember that they cost $135.00. I put them on lay-away at “Wild Pair” (an awesome shoe store from the 80s) and paid them off little by little until they were mine. And then I took care of them because I worked so hard to get them.

I had several jobs when I was a teen (at different times) because I could change the job when I got bored. I wasn’t locked in. If you wait until after you’ve gone through college, and trained for a career (which is a great plan), but then can’t change the job because you can’t find another one and are locked in because you owe so much on school debt, then no wonder you’re miserable. You never had the chance to PLAY with your money and fail. You can’t afford to fail now.

We had friendships and relationships and realized what it meant to have a good friend that would stand by you no matter what. That would get into trouble with you (in a good way, of course), but you knew what to expect from them, because you had created a face to face relationship. Your friendship was tried and tested. You cried through the bad times and laughed through the good. I know, I’m old and I don’t understand, but on-line relationships don’t provide that same closeness. They just don’t! I have “on-line” friends, to some extent, and they don’t measure up to the friends who have hugged me through break-ups and loss, who have celebrated births and marriages and achievements. It’s different. Read the research. This on-line generation is one of the loneliest, depressed and anxiety-ridden generation of all time. That’s not just my opinion.

“But you don’t understand,” is what I hear. You’re right. I don’t. But you also forget that we were young once too. I grew up under the fear of nuclear war. It was a real fear. But instead of withdrawing, my friends and I made a plan that in the event that they dropped “the bomb,” we would all go outside, put on our sunglasses, sit in our lawn chairs and watch the fireworks. It was how we coped…with sick and twisted humor.

And financially? We get it. My family was caught up in the Aerospace crash of the 80s. My dad was an Aerospace Engineer and had a pension plan. He was set for life…until the aerospace companies crashed and took away everyone’s pensions that they worked for their whole life. My family was devastated. I get it.

But I think the biggest lesson that GenXer’s we’re good at was “failing.” We learned skills to cope with failing. You get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving. It was just a given. Was there anxiety? Sure. Was there depression? You betcha. But that was just a diagnosis, not an excuse. We figured out how to deal with things. We didn’t have time, nor was it acceptable, to give up. “Just Do It” was what we lived by.

My advice to the younger generations?

Work now, so you can play with your money.

Get a job, so you can figure out what you like and don’t like before you get all the way through college.

Get out of the house. For goodness sake, get a gang of friends that really know you. Go to concerts (and DON’T RECORD THEM), just enjoy them. Go bowling, go hang out at a friend’s house, go to the mall, and talk to each other.

Pick up a phone…and CALL someone. Don’t just text them.

Do something for someone else…maybe even one of us “old” people. Do it for the human contact, not because you need “volunteer hours” to graduate.

Be still. Sit in awe and wonder at the world around you. Know that you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

And don’t be afraid to fail.

“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison.

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2 comments

  1. Okay, I agree. Some parents go to bat about their kids grades. But each bad grade is a door locked. Things are changing. (Kinda going to play devils advocate here.) For one it’s harder to find a job and for many of us it is impossible to find the free time to have it. I mean there is no way that an Ivy League would let you in if you didn’t take the hardest courses possible and get straight A’s. Of course seeing job experience is necessary too but if you are breaking down because the IB Diploma(AP classes but a full schedule along with a college level extended essay) program is to much it takes a lower level. That goes along with hanging out with friends and reading. I am not going to an Ivy League school. I’m only a freshman so I try to go out as much as possible. But I still want a 4.2 ish GPA. Maybe this is all in my head. I am probably hyping it up a lot more than it needs to be. But I wouldn’t say we aren’t messing up. I fail every day. Sure I don’t want to get a drivers license and working during the summer, my only chance to actually learn something(because school just teach me how to be bored or stressed out), sounds painful. But I still mess up. I just never seem to learn from my mistakes. I learn from others, but just not mine. I don’t know where my point is. It ran away. But there goes my full on life story!

    Being a casual gen z. Thank you for writing your post. I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your input. And, it may not apply to you. Sounds like you’re doing just fine. Perhaps our generations just fail in different ways. Good to hear you go out as much as possible. It’s so important to have that face to face with people. Best wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

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