But this job was different from any I’d seen before. We wore jeans. We piped in Hall & Oates. We told a lot of jokes while cranking out a lot of assignments. The designers weren’t aggrieved by the concept of labor. Rather, they wore sneakers and Walkmans, they drove crappy little Hondas that rattled with old cans of Tab, and they all talked of things—were defined by things—other than the work before them. Music and friends, hiking and television, babies and dogs and tacos. I remember thinking: now this is what work should be like: something you don’t loathe or love, but like well enough.
Gen X had witnessed what its parents had done in the name of Mercedes or making ends meet (depending on economic class), and we pledged to set our sights on careers that we weren’t beholden to. We wanted jobs that helped us to live but weren’t life itself.
…So now, here we Gen Xers are, more or less in our 40s, with neither fame nor fortune, just the freedom that comes with what we do being quite different from who we are.
“Hey, Joe. How’s work?”
…Is “hapathy” a word? I don’t know. I just think the overarching theme for Gen Xers is one of happy apathy. The whole Buddhist approach to living teaches non-attachment, in that “attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.”
Well, Generation X sure got its Zen on by watching marriages dissolve, the Berlin Wall fall, the stock market crash, a president get shot, the Space Shuttle explode, and Fonzie jump the shark. We grew up accepting that nothing was permanent—not the economy, not the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, not even the lead singer for Van Halen. To top it all off, all of our music has been ripped apart and remixed. All of our movies remade. Even Twinkies had to be resuscitated and I hear they taste different now. Because of this, we’ve learned not to get too attached. And because of this, we’re content.
Finally, some generational analysis I actually have use for.