Ah. The age-old generation gap. It just refuses to curl up and die doesn’t it?
I’m a member of the notorious Generation X. I remember being a teenager, sitting around feeling disenfranchised and disillusioned with the establishment. All my aunts, uncles, teachers (and basically anyone else over 25 at the time) were telling me how they didn’t understand “us kids” and we’d be the ones to bring around the end of the world. MARK. THEIR. WORDS. *Insert angsty eye roll from 16-year-old Lou here.* (How are these old people even relevant to me anyway? I know it all. Right?)
Fast forward to now.
I hear it all the time. Gen Y can’t concentrate for more than a millisecond; Gen Y will change jobs quicker than their designer underwear they bought on credit; how they just don’t get it and why aren’t they more grateful to their elders and blah, blah, blah.
Businesses are paying a fortune to experts to teach them how to deal with their Gen Y workforce. There’s online advice forums teaching parents how to encourage their Gen Y’s to leave the nest. And most recently there’s articles letting us know that the up and coming Gen Z are being taught how to play nice in the workforce while they’re still in school. They must conform to our ways!!
Stop. Please. Just stop.
Have we completely lost sight of the fact that despite all their gadgets and tech talk these younger generations are fundamentally just doing what we’ve all done? From the dawn of mankind right up until now all generations have had to find their own way. Go out of their way to do exactly the opposite to what their elders did. Innovate. Explore. Discover.
I work with loads of Gen Y’s. I’m raising a couple of Gen Z’s. And let me tell you now, I love it. I love their enthusiasm. Their know-it-all attitude. Their confidence. I love their bravery; compassion and their refusal to end up like me. But you know what I think I love the most? They aren’t jaded about the world just yet. They still hold out some hope. They still look with fresh eyes for new ways to get through their lives. They still have so much LIFE to LIVE.
I find it inspiring watching these upcoming generations figure out their place in this world. This search for meaning usually leads them to not wanting to be anything like their parents (does that sound familiar Gen X and Baby Boomers??). The really excellent thing is that they have so many more opportunities open to them that we did and it’s fantastic. These guys do not conform as easily as we tend to. They feel it’s their birth right to go forth and challenge normality, which of course, it is.
I can’t get enough of the hipsters, artists, writers, musicians and entrepreneurs that are ploughing their way through their 20’s and 30’s doing their own thing. Let me share some of my favourites with you.
There is a young guy who lives just down the road from me. He has a job, family and a sideline business that sells wooden bow ties, cufflinks and tie pins. Now stay with me on this – I know that may sound both impractical and perhaps a short-lived venture, but what I marvel and wonder at is that at which point did he decide that a piece of old second-hand wood would make a kick-arse bowtie? Even if they aren’t your cup of tea or you can’t see yourself wearing them, if you saw them you’d have to admit they are beautiful pieces of work.
Then there’s this guy in my local shopping mall that works in a coffee shop. This cool cat has a limitless knowledge of coffee and is so very happy to share it with boring old ladies like me. I don’t think I’ve asked him a question yet that he’s found silly. His passion about his job and the product is so deep. I wish I had half of his gusto some days. All I know about coffee is that I actually cannot live without it and I will possibly destroy something unless I’ve had two cups before I leave the house each day. This guy though, he lives for it, while most of us older generations are still trying to find our passion and he’s already living it.
Then there’s up and coming bands and musicians like Kite String Tangle; SAFIA; Ecca Vandal; Bears with Guns and so many more. I’ve got die-hard musician friends of my age and older with whom I have long and pointless arguments with about the validity of this new wave of music. They argue that unless you are making music on traditional instruments by traditional means it isn’t real music. I argue that all through history ground breaking musicians found new and inventive ways to express themselves so why should a guy making music on nothing more than a computer be any different? Or why should we devalue the kid who sits and plays an acoustic set, drumming on a wooden box instead of a drum kit? Again, I marvel at their ability to think so far outside the boxes trying to restrict them.
I for one am glad that we’ve managed to bring kids into the world who aren’t carbon copies of our generation. If they were, how could we possibly hope to keep moving forward?
But if I am honest I have to say I also have a lot of moments when I look at them and think “Thank GOD I am not their age”. I love getting older and seeing the younger generations coming up. And I’ve experienced for the first time in my life having some of these younger people come to me for advice and guidance. I’ve realised that there may be times when these young ones will maybe think they don’t know it all and that we, the older generations may have some useful ideas.
As the older generations, we have to try to remember that we were those kids once. We felt our parents and grandparents were irrelevant, overbearing and neither heard nor valued our ideas and opinions. Then we grew up and realised they may have had half an idea and we started listening to our oldies. We need to let up on the upcoming generations and try to let them find their own way. After all we didn’t bring about the end of the world, did we? So why would they. These guys give me hope not despair. And isn’t that just what the world needs now?