The Generation Game


I’ve always been curious about why we do the things we do. So much so that I’ve been known to suggest everyone at a party take the Myers-Briggs personality test. It’s kind of an obsession of mine, but I love understanding people, so why wouldn’t I put a stop to the drinking just long enough to find out more about who my friends are?

The other day I took a quiz to find out which creative type I am. I should tell you, I will take any quiz that might help me learn a little bit more about myself. I blame the magazines of my formative years, with their “What color are you?” and “Which teen celebrity would you most be like?” for my quiz taking affinity. Sometimes it’s tricky to answer each question honestly, but I take the quiz process surprisingly seriously. Side note: if you are a quiz taker like me, have you ever had someone who knows you really well take a quiz on your behalf, just to see if the results are the same as when you took it? That’s some next level quiz taking there!

What this particular quiz told me was that, creatively, I am a Dreamer. Initially when I got that result, I thought, oh really? I don’t picture myself as having my head in the clouds, which is how I imagine a dreamer would be. But I read further and discovered the assessment was completely accurate. Especially when I read the description, “The inner world is always where you’ve felt most at home. You’re happy to roam your mental landscape of thoughts, emotions, and fantasies for hours on end.” It went on to say more things that could not be more true of me. So yeah, I guess I am someone who has my head in the clouds. At least creatively speaking.

So now that I know which creative type I am, and I already know my personality type, what does my generation say about who I am?

When I was growing up, we never talked about which generation we were part of. We knew the Baby Boomers came before us, but it wasn’t like it is now, with all this talk about the Millennials being so different from other generations, and the fear we have of how they will handle the future. Or at least I don’t remember a focus on our generational habits and characteristics that way.

Whatever the actual generation guides might say, I believe I fit right in with the Microwave Generation. I remember hearing this term years ago but I don’t think I understood it then in the same way I do now. I mean, I guess I thought it was because we were the first generation to have microwaves in our homes (I still remember the day my parents came home with this massive appliance that would sit on top of the counter and change the way the world viewed cooking). But now that I think about it, there is so much more to it.

Basically, I think the Microwave Generation means we want everything immediately. No matter what we do, we want the results now. Like, we’ll do 10 crunches and expect to see six-pack abs in the mirror, or we eat a carrot and expect to feel immediately healthier. Or maybe we try something new and expect to be an instant success at it. But is any of that immediacy realistic?

Okay, so then maybe we’re the unrealistic, have-to-have-it-now generation, but we’re still hard workers and we certainly understand more about life than Millennials, right?

The other day I was joking with a friend about how Millennials will be the ones to care for us in our seniors home, and how they will leave a cup of ice chips by our bed so that if they decide to not come in to work the next day they’ll still feel like they are doing a good job of caring for us. It’s a bit of an extreme joke, sure, but the idea behind it stems from our generation’s fear of the Millennial’s ability to stick with one job long enough to refill that cup of ice for us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to debate one generation being better than another. Instead, I’ve really been thinking about the part we played in creating this new generation of ice chip leaving care givers.

One theory I have is that we create the next generation out of our need to raise them differently than we were raised. For example, my generation was raised by Baby Boomers. Their generation came from a place of lack so it was important for them to provide us with anything we could ever need or want; everything they didn’t have growing up. Even though we were still expected to work hard, we were given what we wanted fairly immediately. And we didn’t have to wait an hour to make dinner in the oven when we could cook the same, if perhaps slightly more mushy, meal in the microwave in five minutes or less!

But, while we came from a generation of immediacy we were also a generation that had winners and losers and kids in our class failed a grade, forcing them to repeat it the following year while we carried on with our studies as planned. Because we always want better for our kids than we had, we created this new generation of participation awards and kids who float through school without really earning what they have, because we’re just handing it to them to save them from the pain of losing a game or being left behind by their friends. And then, the kicker is, we call them lazy and worry they are unprepared for adulthood.

So, maybe, and this is my other theory, generations are a constant balancing act. Maybe Millennials are sitting back and letting us do the work because we’re so impatient and want things done right away. In other words, the Millennials are relaxed because they know we’ll handle it. They are comfortable knowing the hard workers of our generation will step up and take over because we want immediate results; and we take over because we lack the patience to wait for the Millennials to do things in their own, less urgent, time.

Maybe it’s all about counter-balancing the energy, and if we’re too eager for an immediate action the generation that came after us will be more chill. But what if we could return some balance by meeting in the middle?

When I’m worried about something and my husband is not worried about that thing at all, I will worry even more. Because there is something, far beyond any logic, about him not worrying that makes me more nervous. And I often tell him that if he’d meet me in the middle I could worry less, which would be great because, you know, who wants worry lines all over their face?

What if that same theory could be applied to our generation and the Millennials? What if we met them in the middle, somewhere between our need for immediacy and their slower, more relaxed pace? Would things completely fall apart? Or would we them taking more action because we aren’t always there to take over?

If we’re all willing to meet in the middle, we could end up with two really great generations. And maybe it would avoid an even “lazier” generation that is raised by our beloved Millennial children because they will have learned the benefit of the balance. I mean, I’m no expert, but I do think gaining a better balance between our generations is something worth thinking about, rather than just worrying about it. 

Because, the truth is, I’d really like better care when I’m in the seniors home than a cup filled with ice chips left by my bedside every few days.