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Oct 15, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

The part of being an old millennial that this didn’t capture was the feeling I have of being older yet still not in charge. I want to do more to change the world around me but from bosses to politicians, the boomers won’t retire and leave the world to the millennials. They’re literally dying out of jobs now. Maybe that’s why we’re hoping that Gen Z will save us. Not that we’re abdicating responsibility but recognizing the waiting game. I’d love to leave this place better for the next generation. Will we ever have our chance?

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Oh I *love* this point, it’s so important - I find it so demoralizing, personally, especially since the few millennials who have found political prominence are not the ones who I would personally elect or endorse.

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Oct 15, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I understand this frustration, truly I do. As a young-ish Boomer, I'd say there are a few things going on. First, the Silents destroyed so much of the promise of the Great Society: California's Prop 13 and the Reagan "revolution" were not youth movements. Retirement means embracing precarity, not just by dropping cash flow, but, for many people, dropping the part of one's identity that's wrapped up in what we do for work. And this is on top of the physical precarity of just getting older.

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There's a bit of a disconnect. At the upper levels of politics/business/academics etc, the folks who aren't retiring could very well afford to do so. Those are the ones I complain about. Rank and file people in their 60's and 70's who need to keep on working are not the problem.

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At the uppermost levels of politics/business/academics, it isn't about the money, so much as the identity. Sure. Those people don't worry if they'll have enough money -- they will -- they care if they're done with what they wanted to accomplish.

Although when you say 'can very well afford to retire' it's really only the tip of the tip where the cash flow hit isn't going to have implications. What's end of life care, or dementia care going to cost? How many people really have that covered? The tip of the tip, sure.

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Since the pandemic, we've actually been seeing boomers start to retire. I think one reason it was so easy to get a job for several years was that one boomer would retire from a senior position which would induce a whole chain of replacements as someone younger would take the boomer's old job leaving a vacancy which would be in turn filled by someone less experienced leaving a vacancy and so on. One retirement could mean a dozen job changes each involving better pay and more seniority.

Boomers had sort of gotten stuck. Good luck getting a promotion, or even a job, if you are over 50. So, from 1996 to 2014, boomers were increasingly stuck in place. If you had a decent job, you kept it. It wasn't even 100% age discrimination. If you had a decent job, odds are you were more expensive. In 2011, boomers started hitting retirement age. 1957 was the peak, so one would have expected to start seeing the macro retirement effect around 2022. Maybe COVID influenced some boomers, but for a lot of them, it was just getting old.

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I’m early Gen X and feel the same way. There was also not much hiring in my industry in the late 90s, so there just aren’t a lot of us. It’s weird.

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Another early GenX here. It’s funny to see us continually erased, even in thoughtful pieces like this. I don’t know who came up with “millennials are the first generation not to do as well as their parents,” but radical income inequality started with Reagan in the 80s. The economy fundamentally changed right when GenXers were graduating from high school and college. None of my friends has done nearly as well as their parents (although most do own houses). Boomers pulled up the ladders right when we were about to start, cutting taxes/benefits/social support. I feel like my whole adult life has been watching this country turn more and more rightward, more callous and more difficult to navigate. Finally, it might have gotten bad enough that things have started to change.

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I understand the frustration with Gen-X erasure but it's economists who've pointed out that millennials are the first modern generation to do worse than their parents, not just a vibe — the hyperlink in the piece goes through a bunch of the (depressing) reasons!

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Yeah about half of Gen X did really really well, another quarter so-so, and a quarter really got messed up. The leadership thing is real though. We are a small gen, and historically overlooked so I get it. Some of it depended on age of parents and how well they themselves did. My mother left me absolutely nothing because she never accrued it (out of a fear of banks and so forth from the Depression).

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Came here to say this. Boomers should have retired and left the leadership to us! Constantly gatekept and erased. I’m 54 and this is the first year I’ve felt “washed” 40, 50 is NOT old but it is when the younger generations decide they know and have discovered it all and realize they could lose relevancy. Just like we did. Just like you will just like Z will.

Or hear me out, we could try living and working in a much less ageist and more collaborative way.

As for housing, X has not done all that well. Boomers (in general) fucked us over too.

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“Or hear me out, we could try living and working in a much less ageist and more collaborative way.”

THIS! THANK YOU for saying this.

Another 50-something here, feeling genuinely befuddled and kinda pissed off at the ageism and entitlement of the “WHY DON’T PEOPLE RETIRE AND GIVE ME THEIR JOBS LOL OK BOOMERS” crowd. Like, I get it. Boomers in power acted like most people in power do and messed a lot of things up. Every single Gen Xer feels this, you don’t have to explain it to us. BUT. Being an actual old person in the US is expensive and scary af. A lot of people are working longer because they genuinely can’t afford to retire (or because they’re trying to make as much money as possible to squirrel away for their kids and grandkids because they get how bad it is for them and want them to have some security). All of us pointing fingers at each other while expecting everyone younger than us to fix it does nothing whatsoever to solve the extremely dire problems we collectively face and which are coming for each and every one of us eventually, if not equally. That’s a long-ass sentence but what can I say? This is a big-ass mess and it would be great if we could all take some deep breaths and pool our collective knowledge and experience to actually accomplish some shit, for everyone’s benefit.

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Yep. My mother was a silent generation person and had no debt (no real savings though, only her house which she had to sell to get into long term care. The manager at the long term care place said her's was the last generation with any means to truly take care of themselves after retirement. It's all those things are more, but it certainly isn't helping those coming up. It is a big-ass mess.

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Same. I’m from the Bay Area and moved back there in 1997. I got lucky with a startup company that had a successful IPO but that just meant I could afford a smaller house in a less expensive part of the town I grew up in.

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I did nonprofit life and my husband did a PhD but didn't get out before the bust of 2010. We are kind of screwed in a lot of ways.

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I'm at this age where I know I will have to work well into my 70's to survive and I am already aged out of leadership positions that Millenials want and frankly should be going after. We will see a bulk of X'ers working and never really retiring but where do they fit??

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Definitely! Other than my actual friends, I feel like Gen X has vanished. Of course as my friends who are turning 50 joke. Gen X was 30 when we were 10 and are still 30 when we are 50.

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Totally agree! I'm like where's the political movement that seeks to tap all the latent potential of millennial exhaustion?! Are the Democrats strategizing about this? They should.

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I understand what you mean. I’m a Xennial, and I’ve yet to reach a point in my life where I feel like I have decision-making power. And yet, I’m not sure if having younger leaders necessarily makes a difference?

In Canada, our prime minister is Gen X, and was in his mid-forties when he was elected. The leaders of the two other major parties are Xennials. Many of the elected representatives are in the same cohort. My generation technically has political power, but that hasn’t resulted in much meaningful positive change. Extreme right-wing Christian nationalism (and all the other -isms) have our democracy on a precipice.

Maybe it’s just the lethal combination of neoliberalism/patriarchy/white supremacy that has a stranglehold on our society? Maybe it’s because multinational/international problems have been unfurling at such a rate that our leaders can’t focus on domestic change? Maybe it’s the impact of living in the age of misinformation/disinformation? Maybe it’s because this cohort is repeating the same mistakes as previous generations?

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Such a good point. I am 36 and still feel so far away from any sort of leadership position in my field, to the point where I’m not striving for it anymore. I often consider changing careers once my kids start school, but can I make a difference starting over in my late 30s/early 40s?

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Oct 15, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I'm so fascinated with how this all intersects with the concept of a "midlife crisis". I always joke that millennials can't afford sports cars and mistresses so we just all went to therapy and got a little spiritual instead. But like, I haven't been owning a house and raising children as long as many people in past generations had by the time they were 40, will it just happen later? There's also a weird tension between having less stability and opportunity in the world but also more freedom to question work culture, to be real about the challenges of parenting and to want a partner who you actually like and respect and who wants equality in your partnership. I sense these are mitigating factors in the whole midlife crisis thing. But also I feel like I've been living in one crisis or another my whole adult life (and my job is related to climate work, so...) and maybe I just don't want to manufacture another crisis?

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The point about how not having everything/a lot of things has freed us to interrogate those institutions in really meaningful ways is such a good one

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Ooh, this reminds me of the Quarterlife book! The midlife crisis is when too much "order"--buying houses, being parents, working steadily--becomes a crisis of "meaning." I wonder if generationally, millennials were thrust into a crisis of meaning in their quarterlife, as stability was sort of thrown in our faces, and now our midlife crisis is one of lack of stability.

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OMG yes the quarterlife crisis!!! Thank you for saying that!!!

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I think about this too and my millennial siblings have discussed how we are doing everything our parents did at a much later age. They were married as teens, homeowners and parents by their mid-twenties. We are doing all of those things in our thirties. My dad bought a motorcycle when he was about the age I am now - nearly 40 - and there were jokes about a midlife crisis. But we had such a longer "youth" that I don't think that crisis is coming for us? We might have had less stability in early adulthood, but we also had a less responsibility and more time for self-discovery.

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Solidly Gen X, born in 1975, and I’m so fascinated by the way people just a few years younger than me have such a different relationship to adulthood and aging. That meme about Gen X being 30 at age 10 and 30 at age 50 is funny because it’s so spot on--my childhood wasn’t warm and safe, it took 3+ decades for me to find my stride, and I’m grateful as hell to have made it this far. I am aging into myself, not away from myself.

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"...aging into myself, not away from myself" describes this so perfectly!

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Oct 15, 2023·edited Oct 15, 2023

I'm a Xennial (b. 1980) and I'm just going to focus on the changing political verve because I've been in the thick of it my entire career (nonprofit fundraising/volunteer management/advocacy) and am really feeling the exhaustion and burnout lately. Most of the time it seems that there's just not enough funding/resources/time/political will available to actually make the changes needed under our current capitalist system, and the current funding structure forces us all to compete with each other for what is available (which does NOT improve community solidarity) and it sucks.

But I'm also not going to give up because deep down I'm still that stubborn rebellious teen who got a lot of that "har har when you get older you'll go Republican like me" stuff from my dad and EFF THAT.

So how I've been dealing with it so far: 1) focusing more on concrete local goals. I just can't do large rallies anymore, for example, but I can vote for zoning policies that make it easier for houses in our neighborhood to put up solar panels. Or send a comment to the board of ed meetings and say that as a mom, actually, I DO want real sex ed curriculum in my school. Seeing tangible results, no matter how small, is highly motivational!

2) Being OK with giving to causes that make me happy even if they aren't top priority for saving the world. Which also totally shows how Gen X I really am, because those causes happen to be a handful of community-supported FM radio stations that partner with local high schools to broadcast tons of excellent music. If we DO survive the oncoming catastrophes we need to make sure the world is actually worth living in, and for me, that means ensuring that everyone has free access and exposure to good music of all genres without having to go through the awful corporate radio/streaming algorithms.

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Wait... Could it be that a burning love of great music on FM radio is the most quintessential, generation-defining Gen X thing? Because it was foundational for me (born 1980). I think we've got a rich text here.

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Born in 79 and right there with you

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I’m born in 1984 (close enough) and just started a monthly donation to my local FM student radio station today. I feel like it’s up to people in their 30s and 40s to fund it so the younguns can enjoy it like we did.

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This is amazing! I have something for my favorite college radio station on my will, FWIW.

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Go, Gen X!!

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I appreciate you mentioning those of us who feel like we’ll never be able to own a house, but to me the bigger issue is: we’ll never be able to retire. We’ll be working ourselves to death till the day we die.

I can make peace with never owning a house. But knowing that I most likely won’t ever be able to retire? That scares me.

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This is such an important issue and I feel like it isn't talked about enough. My Boomer parents retired in their mid-60s and I just look at that and think, "wow" because it doesn't feel like the real world. And because many of us delayed having kids, many of us are facing our late 50s and 60s with kids that will be heading to college - it feels like we cannot save for everything, the stress of wondering if that money will every be enough, and ... the terror that we're just going to repeat student loan and work cycles ...

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Home ownership is almost the only way you can retire I feel. I grew up in and currently live in Australia (but spent a chunk of time living in the US) and home ownership here is extremely difficult as well.

My parents are an exception in that they have never owned a home together (my Dad did with his first wife, but nothing since they divorced). My Dad is now 79 and still works full time in his own business, his health is now failing and he’s probably going to have very little time for “retirement” that won’t be dominated by health issues.

Conversely, my husband’s mother passed away suddenly last year at age 65, leaving us with a inheritance that has eased a lot of financial worry for us. Most of our peers won’t get this for another 20+ years.

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The fact that bigger and bigger chunks of our take-home pay are going to pay for rent is a very bad sign for our future retirement prospects, you're absolutely right. If you manage to own your house by the time you retire--or if your mortgage payments are fairly small--you'll probably be okay. But if you hit 70 and are still renting...how the hell are you supposed to ever retire?

There's also the added layer of the fact that more and more of us are not having children. I don't have children and I'm single, so I won't have anyone to take care of me when I'm old. Yet another reason retirement probably won't ever happen.

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Definitely, all of this! Plus, people are living longer and longer, so by the time my boomer parents die I will be past retirement age myself, but will have spent all my money on renting and healthcare, and therefore won't have money to retire. My dad retired in his mid-60s and that seems like a pipe dream.

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founding

First I want to say I love this piece. It’s what made me finally become a paying subscriber this morning. 🙀

I’m the tail end of Gen-X. I definitely think there are different generations defined by certain events we all lived through (fall of Soviet Union, 9/11, etc) and I also think getting old is just natural. When I started reading the article my first thought was “Ha! Welcome to my world”

As I got deeper into the article my thoughts grew more complex.

First, I think the old adage of people getting more conservative as they get older may not be true anymore. I definitely became more liberal as I saw more of the world for what it really is. As I gained more life experience I became more aware of why things are the way they are (it’s always more complex than you think when you are young), but also a greater sense of injustice that we haven’t fixed these things. I hope that later generations coming of age will similarly become more liberal with age.

Second, I think the big part you are missing is that the Baby Boom generation really is unprecedented and is still in charge of everything. People live longer than they used to. At almost 50 I would expect most of the centers of power would be in X-er hands by now, but that’s not reality. Every president since 1992 has been a boomer (or at least someone whose youth was shaped by the Vietnam War. Obama and Biden bookend this group).

Think about that for a second. The reins of power have been with the Baby Boom generation for an exceedingly long time. Of course we feel like we don’t have power. Because we don’t.

Of course this generation can’t live forever, and as they begin to leave I expect politics to rapidly change (as we have already started to witness).

Old man rant done.

Thank you for the article.

Josh

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Exactly. All the problems that millennials will have with baby boomers are destined to go away, perhaps, not as fast as some might like, but they will go away. Millennials will then have to look in the mirror and see which problems belong to them and which ones did they conveniently blame on someone else?

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I'm a boomer, and I remember boomers with similar complaints about the previous generation. If anything, there was a bigger cultural gap. Clinton was the first boomer president, and for a lot of boomers it felt like it's-about-time.

Reading history, I get the feeling that this is much older. I read Troublesome Young Men about the end of appeasement in the UK before World War II, and the generational conflict was palpable. Interestingly, it was the younger MPs who fought in The Great War who were most in favor of going to war with Germany. It's telling in a way. It took a fair bit to get Churchill into the PM slot, and he was of the previous generation.

I'm sure it's older than that. The Romans called it the Senate because it was full of seniors.

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Two amusing facts from the book:

- One of the younger MPs was Barbara Cartland, the romance writer which is sort of an understatement. He fought against appeasement and died in World War II.

- The translated version of Mein Kampf released in the UK was heavily censored with a lot of Hitler's genocidal mania elided. One of the few woman MPs could read German. She read the uncensored version and vehemently opposed mollifying the Nazi regime.

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For the record, she was Kitty Atholl, a Tory, but:

"A decade later, however, she was showing distinct signs of rebellion. She joined Churchill and other Tory hard-liners in opposing the government’s bill to grant India limited self-rule because in her view, the Hindu majority would victimize the Muslim and untouchable minorities. Then, in late 1935, she picked up a copy of Mein Kampf in the original German. As she read Hitler’s outline of his political philosophy, she was appalled by its hatred and bigotry but, most of all, by its explicit blueprint for German aggression against much of the rest of Europe. 'Never can a modern statesman have made so startlingly clear to his reader his ambitions …' she later wrote."

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Perfect comment

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This feels timely to me; one of the most distinct phenomena in my internal weather this past year has been understanding that I’ve moved into another phase of life and being unsure of what to do with it. The clothing and music examples are relatable but feel more surface-level- I think I am most drawn to thinking about aging in a way that isn’t about other age groups, maybe?

One thing that I am grappling with in a way I never had to before is the loss of the feeling that I can start anew at any time. The pandemic caught me on a career and personal upswing and slammed all of it to the ground, and three years later I find myself lacking the.. energy? optimism? will? that I really took for granted in a phase of life that is all about possibility and the future, and having done a fair amount of volunteer work with 20-somethings in the past year, I also feel keenly aware that my social location is different now. The window on joining something new/starting a new job/etc. and being folded into the group as another youngish person is no longer wide open. I also have family commitments now that mean I can’t move for a fresh start (and the place I am bound to is not one that has the kinds of opportunities or draws the kinds of people I find invigorating). So even knowing that people start things at all ages and I am still relatively young and only just beginning to see what getting older is like, the transition from “this is what it could be like” into “this is what my life is” is a little rough right now.

I do suspect there is something about the somewhat-but-not-entirely visible changes brought on by the pandemic that is shaping this in unique ways for us (and simultaneously that plenty of this is shared with those that were here before us). It’s comforting to know it’s not just me, and I hope to see more from people our age on this.

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Oct 16, 2023·edited Oct 16, 2023

I think my own recent dwelling on this is of a similar vein.

It's realizing that I'm old enough to understand that I am, I'm fact ... Well, just older. And that this, in and of itself, regardless of other age groups, feels significant.

It's like a silent shift from "I'm living life!" (Which really, I did without even considering I was just living life) to "Wow, youth really IS wasted on the young!" It's like I woke up one day and understood that I will never have the blinders of youth on anymore. And I also don't know exactly what to do with it.

Like you said, Ezra, it's connected to the surface-level things... The "throwbacks" of fashion and music, feeling totally clueless about new technology, etc, do make me say, "Wow, guess I am old now, huh?" To the point of this piece, I think being millennials puts us in a more unique circumstance of "middle-age" experience, and that's absolutely worth talking about (thank you, AHP, for doing so in such a smart, detailed way!) However, my own feelings lately are less specific to being a millennial, I think, and more "universal" (?) in that aging (time/experience) is challenging my understanding of self. The surface-level things make it more obvious, of course. But, for me, anyway, it's felt very personal and universal at the same time. Like parenthood, or losing a very close loved one, something you can only understand once you've experienced it yourself.

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Well said about aging challenging the understanding of self and that it’s something you can only understand once you’ve been thru it.

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This is interesting because I've been feeling sort of the opposite lately? In my 'youth' I took everything very seriously as I felt every choice was laying a brick in the inalterable building of my adult self. Like, making a wrong choice would make my life bad/poor/boring forever. I am 38 years old, my husband is 48 and as his kids approach adulthood we are talking about finding work abroad, about hobby-farming, or about starting our own business. Like, we are ready for a new adventure and it seems more possible now than it did when I was 30 to just... start anew.

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founding

I'm squarely GenX, but haven't associated my age (and aging) with things like home ownership and retirement/rainy-day funds, because all those things were delayed for me because of my career, and then digging out from under financial precarity. I'm fifty-two, and only two years into actually feeling some kind of stability. Aging, for me, has crept up on me in two ways - the rise in the number of annual medical tests I need, and the softening of my grip upon the world. More often than not, I think things are going to be okay *without* me trying to control the shit out of them, and that is very much a marker of having lived through some stuff. (And therapy.) But here is the delightful thing - this week I was waiting for one of my many medical tests, and overheard a group of three het couples, all over 80 (they said so proudly), waiting for *their* tests. And they were cheerfully observing just HOW many more medical tests they had to have since they turned eighty. So many more than when they turned seventy! And I was sitting there thinking about aging and *fifty*, and it pulled me up short and made me laugh. I appreciated the perspective so much.

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I love this. As a fellow GenX who didn't have a 401k until I was nearly 30 and then worked low-paying jobs until I was almost 40.... I will never retire, I think. We have so many medical tests.

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A marketing guy I met at a party told me that the more your taste and preferences solidify the less you’ll be chased by the “new.” Crudely put, once you’ve selected a laundry detergent, the other brands will stop working to gain your attention.

I think something similar happens in other realms of life. Being older means having more experience and how to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish. The feeling of being washed, should be a feeling of triumph, because it means you know how to do things now.

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I very much appreciate your comment. I do!

... But I had to point out your incredible pun, intentional or not, of selecting a laundry detergent for life and how other brands stop working to Gain your attention.

Gain.

Like the laundry detergent.

Sorry, I'm just giggling so much over here. Thank you, even if it was totally me reading it and ascribing my own pun to your very thoughtful comment.

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Oct 16, 2023·edited Oct 16, 2023

God, and the concept of being "washed" is here, too!? The brilliance just keeps coming! (You know, to continue the theme, like brilliant colors that stay even after being washed... Like our own abilities to stay "woke" or continue to learn and grow, even as we age and fade from the newness of youth into a more worn and reliable version of ourselves ... Those comfy, broken in jeans, if you will)

I digress! Anyway, thank you for the fun train of thought on this Sunday evening.

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Lol

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Heh. Gain. 😆

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You can also look at it as having learned what you like, so you stop doing things because "other people" expect you to. I've always been self-directed, often to a fault. I've always been surprised at the things people will do because they are "supposed to". As people age, they start to figure this out. They become what the ad industry calls "problem consumers:, the one's who only buy what they want or need.

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I aspire to be a problem consumer. Beautiful to check out of consumerism as a personality trait.

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Because I was the elder caregiver for my mother, who died at 102, and my aunt, who lived to 94, I have a different perspective on what it is like to be old. I completely understand why millennials would feel “old,” since every day means you are older than the day before, but inside, I want to say, “Bless your hearts, you are not anywhere near old. Buck up, kiddos.”

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Oh I relate to this. I had silent and greatest gen parents even though I am an X. I’ve seen the oldest aging. What’s being touched on, I think, is our cultures increasing obsession with youth and capitalist relevancy. To the market, to the socials created for youth (TT) 49!is both washed and washed up and 50? Forget it. But we outside of that model know that is not true. I actually live in a region filled with retirees and a town where I am considered by many, at 54, to be a kid. Wild, right?

Ultimately none of the generations beyond the boomers are doing well economically and it gets worse as things get younger. The country is getting less stable, more divided, more authoritarian, and culturally obsessed with looking 16. Even the 16 year olds have multi step beauty routines. Anyway, I may be washed but I don’t feel washed up.

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The early boomers did much better than the later boomers. This was a boomer joke back in the 1970s, but it's a serious thing 50 years later. Late boomers are much more likely to be the geriatric unhoused even though they are younger than most of their cohort.

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Yes I think this is true. The earlier you boomed the better you did.

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Late Boomer here (1961) and it's absolutely true. My experiences were a lot different than the early Boomers born in the late 1940s/early or mid-1950s. When I graduated from high school/started university (in Canada) in 1979, mortgage rates were in the area of 20%. We bought our first home in 1990, when I was almost 30, only with some help with the down payment from my father-in-law. Our first mortgage rate was 12.75% but because I worked for a bank, I got an extra point off. I don't think we ever paid less than about 7%. (Yes, the houses cost less, but we also made less then too.)

When my sister's partner, a geological engineering student, started university (at the same time I did), there were three jobs for every student. Then the National Energy Program came into effect (look it up) and by the time he graduated, there were three students for every available job. (He never did work in engineering.)

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I was at the tail edge of the early boomers, so some good stuff was still around but it was fading fast. I was at an elite university, and the changing job situation for graduates was apparent even there. It was worse for blue collar types without elite or university. Manufacturing jobs were hard to find and well paid ones nearly impossible. The 1970s were full of oil shocks and recessions, and the 1980s weren't much better despite the rhetoric of the time. The employment situation didn't really improve until the late 90s.

I remember those mortgage rates. I was paying 12.25%. A friend of mine who bought his house less than a year later was paying 19.5%.

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Yes, same. I'm in my early 40s, and helped caregive my elderly inlaws for years, until their deaths. I don't relate to this perception of "old" very well at all.

Also, I think because since childhood I've always felt like I didn't really fit in, the feeling of being out of the loop isn't new to me.

I do remember really attaching a HUGE amount of meaning to turning 30, because how much women lose "value" as we hit birthdays, and I find that extremely depressing.

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Remember that song about the quarter life crisis? Twenty-five hit me because I had friends who were super achievers, landing on 30 Under 30 lists and so on. But now, I just get on with things. I feel lucky to be here.

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Yes!!

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Oh, man, all those 30 Under 30 lists. Arghh. Yes, I was horrified that was going to hit 30 and not have published a book, etc. 😞🙄

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I think it’s less about “old” and more about settling in to yourself. Washed is a good phrase. And as someone smack in the middle of parents that felt vaguely like slightly frailer peers (like maybe they shouldn’t be on ladders), to people who need some level of care, I see both of these perspectives.

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The line "the first generation to end up poorer than our parents" really hit me hard. My partner and I make more than twice as much as my parents did before retiring (we also studied for way longer) and we could not afford the house I grew up in. I teach in college level, and in a way it makes me in a sort of limbo where I feel incredibly older every day when talking to students (cultural references, mostly), but also feel like they are helping me stay young in terms of ideas

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founding

This is so interesting. I teach college-level students too, at a residential campus, and because they are always 18-22 years old, I feel like my sense of aging is in limbo. The people change but the age-range never does, and so it baffles me that *I* am getting older when they don't!

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I teach high school, and have experienced the same odd sensation of feeling older each day, but also mentally young. I find them pretty invigorating intellectually, and honestly love when I'm the go to for the youth amongst my group of friends.

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Yeah, that one stood out to me and has not changed. I lucked into home ownership in 2011, but am a single parent with no retirement savings who will definitely not be reaching the level of financial security my parents had.

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This really resonated with me as a "young" GenX member (last third of "official" years). Culturally, I very much represented GenX ( wanting to do something non-corporate, music, movies, tv, etc. - maybe because those were my touchstones/shaped my ideas as a small kid in the 1980s?). At the same time, due to career (coughgradschoolcough), finishing the PhD in 2010 right as the bottom had dropped out of the academic job market, job hunting with a partner who is also an academic, life things (marriage and baby and housing and student loans), everthing felt delayed and I often felt like things being written and said about Millennials also applied to us. To be clear, we were privileged - we immediately qualified for PSLF once it was fixed in 2020, we had generational wealth (my Boomer parents) who helped with a house downpayment in 2015 - moving out of the city into suburbia - and urged and guided us to refinance in 2021, etc. All of those milestones did make me suddenly feel older and more "done". So I will say that while I feel "washed" - and shout-out to my college students and friend's kids who try to help me understand their cultural moment - I am okay with that. I love my garden, my quiet evenings at home with my husband and likeminded friends, and not feeling so busy with the process of figuring out who I am. BUT, I also am troubled that we (and I mean both Xers and Millennials) are using the "GenZ will save us" rhetoric. While I'm washed in terms of culture and the intensity of work, going out, etc., I've still left space to be mad: about the climate; economic inequity; racism; politics. About all the things. And I feel like we owe it to GenZ and to my hopefully-soon-to-have-a-different-generation-name 8-year-old kid's generation to stay engaged and reamin active in trying to find solutions by using our votes, our money (when we have it), our educations, etc. to contribute to the good, rather than complaining about kids or leaving it to them to solve.

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Oct 15, 2023·edited Oct 15, 2023

I'm an elder millennial at 42, and life isn't quite what I expected. I studied hard, I work a public service job (just qualified last month for forgiveness), and have a spouse who works full time. I'm quite honestly happy, but cant forget that hurricane Katrina destroyed my early and mid 20s, and ate though meager savings. I feel like I have been struggling to catch up ever since.

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Hurricane Katrina... ugh. I am so sorry Julia!

My early to mid-twenties were also destroyed (by parents' divisive divorce) so I feel you. I'm 39 and only in the last 3-5 years am I really coming up for air and happy most days.

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The good news is that we are still here and still moving forward with our lives! I'm pretty happy with where I am even if it took longer than anticipated to get here.

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Oct 15, 2023·edited Oct 15, 2023

I was born in 1989. For me, honestly, it's a lot of things: my work situation is precarious and I still only make about 35k a year. I grew up middle to upper middle class and I know I'll never reach my parents' level of wealth. My partner grew up working class and was elated to reach middle-class status, but works in the trades, which in this case has major health impacts in the long run (inconsistent hours resulting in sleep problems,occasional contact with hazardous chemicals, work conditions that could always theoretically result in injury or death on the job site). We are both ethnic minorities (and he is also a racial minority), which has health impacts. I also feel I have physically aged significantly in the last few years due to chronic stress and anxiety. I am medicated and in therapy and it still isn't enough, and it's expensive on top of it all. I am truly exhausted.

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One of the things that makes me (a millennial) feel old and powerless is climate change. We spent our school years being told what would happen if we didn’t change our behaviour and now it’s happening exactly as predicted. So even if you’ve been lucky enough to buy a house or find a good job or whatever, chances are you’ve dealt with at least one extreme weather event in the last couple of years. I feel like we’re the climate crossover generation that still remembers when natural disasters were rare, seasons were mostly ‘normal’ but now we’re staring down the barrel of having to still live for decades with this global warming shitshow.

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My siblings and I had a book called "101 Things Kids Can Do to Save The Earth" and I think we actually believed that if we just made toys out of egg cartons and turned the water off when brushing our teeth we'd actually help the planet. Haha, look at those losers and their optimism.

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YES thank you! I can't stand "the kids will save us narratives"-- it's always felt like such a cop-out (to use millennial vernacular), both when we were the saviors and now that the focus is shifting onto Gen Z. Surely different generations can learn from each other and we can work together to build the society we want to live in.

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Came here to say this, as a Zillennial. There’s enough chaos in the present, let alone the future, and I worry that older generations are going to continue abdicating responsibility (as this seems to be a bit of a pattern, at least in the US). Similarly, to someone else’s point about a lot of political/influential folks being Baby Boomers and possibly retiring or dying en masse, I’m scared that Millennials and younger who are taking those power places will be left with a void of process. A lot of our current processes are laborious and ineffective, but they do occasionally result in something good, and that feels like a better place to get oriented than a system without any clear process at all.

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I'm trying to shift this rhetoric amongst my peers to 'gen-z is holding us accountable'. As millennials, it's not too late to make changes and it's irresponsible to give up and hope the kids will save us. They are *kids* (kind of, some of them) and it's still on us to make the world livable for them.

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I feel so much the same about expecting/hoping/whatever that kids will save us. Thinking Gen Z can save us really feels like it hinges so much on hoping the demographics shake out the right way during elections. And it's wild to pin hopes on Gen Z when Millennials have what feels like barely any political power.

And yes, so much of the way we do things now is not working for anyone, building some cross-generational solidarity would be great.

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