Troy: what happened to your normal clothes?
Michael: wow! Lelaina, look at you. You look…where’d you get that dress?
Lelaina: Oh, um… I don’t know. I just bought it. But I think I’m gonna go change because…
Michael: No, don’t. You look beautiful. You look like… You look like…
Troy: A doily.
Lelaina: I’m gonna change.
Michael: No, don’t change.
Troy: And don’t go thinking for yourself either, Lainie.
[scene from “Reality Bites”, universal pictures, 1994]
The Art Linklater film “Slacker” has been considered the generation-x answer to “Easy Rider”. Although it is not a road movie, it most definitely defined (or redefined) a generation. If this is truly the case, then we must also consider the movie “Reality Bites” as a defining moment in cinema history for gen-x. Both movies depict a world in which the most intelligent and creative among us become lazy and complacent. In “Reality Bites” the main character, the valedictorian of her graduating class at university, ends up having to work a minimum wage job to be able to make ends meet. Her roommate, who has also completed university, works at the gap and their friend, who has only one class left to finish, would rather loaf on a couch than complete his degree. Philosophically, what is the point of the piece of paper? That is the question asked in these movies and, unfortunately, they were not just defining a generation, but also foreshadowing the future. Smart people with no direction.
How can we better understand our current circumstances through movie depictions of our generation. Of course, we are not characters in a movie, but some movies strike right at the heart of real, living, breathing, humans. The characters in “Reality Bites” are not 2-dimensional caricatures, but fully formed characters. People that we, off the screen, can actually relate to and maybe see in others of our generation. Generation-x, that is. Those of us between the hippies and the hipsters. Those of us born in the 70’s who have really tried to make this country work for us. We are the main demographic for advertising now and we actually have always been. We grew up with MTV, but had to work for our media. We are the generation that was raised with sound bites and short attention spans, but didn’t have ADHD diagnoses to blame for our problems in school or life. We were told to try harder, not take the easy way out by popping a pill. If we wanted to talk on the phone we had to dial a number, but we have also adapted to our current surroundings. Generation-x may be considered a lost generation, now, looking back, but we are still here. We carry with us all the debt the 80’s created and the disillusionment of the 90’s. We carry the weight of the baby boomers as they move into social security years and the burdens of the hipsters who steal away our chances at success in new media industries, even though we were on the forefront of those technologies.
An outcome of slackerdom, or simple complacency, is the pull to stay in one decade. For gen-x, that decade would be the 90’s and, believe me, I have that bug. I would love to wake up at noon each day, go to a coffeehouse, hang out and read a good book, walk back home, stopping along the way to pick up a few items for dinner, and then work, after dinner, on a book or a libretto or something creative that pays the bills. Writing this blog and getting paid for it. Making espresso and getting paid for it. Reading and writing and getting paid for it. But getting paid enough to afford the things I need and want, not scrounging. Back to the days of $1.13 gallons of gas and free meals, 29 cent stamps and Fiona Apple. Back to The Counting Crows and Jewel and Puff Daddy. When Kurt and Left Eye, Biggie and Aaliyah, Tupac and Layne were alive. Back in the day.
So how can we make the 90’s happen in the teens? First things first. Find a job that makes you happy. Never settle for doldrums. If you have to scrimp and save and scrounge for a bit to get to where you want to be professionally it will be more than worth it in the end. Working a job you hate just to pay the bills ends you up a bitter person with a sad life. You will look back and only see the paychecks, not good times. Once you are on the road to a better existence though work happiness everything will look sunnier. Each morning will be one that you want to rise to the occasion for, not a struggle to get out of bed.
Next – stop beating yourself up for the things that you have not done or may not do that others wish you would do. Your life is your own and if you do not live it the way you want you will be unhappy in the end. You are living for you, not anyone else, and you have to put your needs and wants first, not those of others. You cannot take care of others unless you take care of yourself first. You cannot love others unless you love yourself first. This includes having children. Children are a huge responsibility and if you are not personally ready to enter into the realm of parenthood it is never a good idea to move forward. Let go of the things that people say or request of you and move forward with what YOU want. Positivity and moving toward goals will bring you everything you really want in the end and the guilt of children not being in the equation has to be let go of in order to move forward. You only get one life so you should live it how you want and not how others think you should.
Finally – always make time to be creative. If you have a talent, use it. The spent doing the things you love will make you a better person. Time spent alone, concentrating on a creative outlet wil make you a stronger and more well rounded individual. Always keep your mind open to new things and do not dismiss the opinions of others. You do not have to agree, but you should at least listen. From one human to another, this is all we really want from each other. To be heard.
So, maybe being from gen-x is not the worst thing in the world. We have a good handle on the future, based on the past, and we are able to overcome obstacles. Environmental issues? No problem! We will reduce, reuse, and recycle like rock stars. Bad economy? Please! We will downsize until things bounce back. Need a new tech? Of course! We will be working on the future of the tech that was introduced to us as children, because that is what we do. We are problem solvers and we will not quit until we have found solutions for everything. Moving forward, making the future brighter, this is what we slackers are all about. Don’t think that slacker is a negative nickname. It is the fuel that we need to change the world. And, mark my words, we ost certainly will. We should embrace the titles that older generations have given to our generation. Coffeehouses and grunge music were the beginning of our enlightenment. Don’t worry, Eeyore can still be our gen-x mascot. We will just make the Eeyore in each of us see the future in a brighter light. Eeyore can still be a downer and a doer at the same time. It is possible to be a walking contradiction and nobody knows this better than those of us born between 1965 and 1980. Go go gen-x! Rock it out and leave the boomers and the millenials in your dust!
Peace and Happy Fixing!
Chantale aka hippiegrrl