I am a Gen-Xer through and through. My first concert was New Kids on the Block. My first hardcore crush was Jon Bon Jovi. I rolled my jeans, teased my bangs, and, when grunge music rolled around in the mid-90s, I was all in for Live and Counting Crows. I am happy to have grown up without social media and cell phones. I wear my Peach Pit t-shirt with pride.
What this all really means is that I’m part of the generation that is spectacularly resilient.
We’ve lived through the Gulf War and, more crucially, September 11th. We were latchkey kids, and then we learned how to maneuver the internet from its meager inception. A lot of us have carried on through the COVID-19 quarantine because we understand that sometimes we just have to do hard things.
Now, we face a new identity: Generation X has moved into its Sandwich Era. We are raising our kids while caring for our aging parents and grandparents.
The older Gen-Xers have been living in the Sandwich for a while. Some have already buried a parent or two, as well as graduated some or all of their kids from high school and college. Some are grandparents! We’re a big group, after all.
But some of us are just now shifting into this phase, and it requires a little adjustment. 2020, which has thrown us all for a loop, brings the start of my boys’ freshman and junior years of high school. It also brought forced retirement for my father following a stroke and a diagnosis of heart cancer. One day I’m picking up extra snacks for my son to take to soccer camp, and the next I’m doing a grocery run for my 93-year-old grandfather, who is on oxygen full time and in self-quarantine until COVID-19 goes away.
My boys are learning how to drive, buckling down for tough academic years, and starting to think about college. We’re having meaningful conversations about navigating romantic relationships and how to manage their money. We are dealing with a wide range of hormones.
Meanwhile, my parents are signing up for Medicare and considering a move to a handicap-accessible house. My father finished six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation in April. It’s been a busy spring.
At almost 42-years-old, I am the happiest I’ve ever been as an individual. I love my work, my marriage, and my life. By the grace of God, I’ve cultivated a world well-suited for my personality, desires, and goals. It is a good thing to know yourself well.
But, look to the left and right of me, and I’m sandwiched between two generations of people I love who need my help in big ways. They deserve it — the help, the effort, the love. It isn’t lost on me that having a family is a privilege. So, this new-found role doesn’t scare me. I know I’m resilient because I was raised to be. You don’t watch the Berlin Wall come down and think hard things are impossible. All things are possible, but many things are exhausting.