I am a quintessential Gen Xer. I have been blogging about Generation X for about five years. I currently live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I mentor Generation X leaders. My husband and I are raising a Generation Z daughter and are passing on to her all the good things from when we grew up – from skee ball to School House Rock. I go on journeys around America to write about and photograph places from monuments to memorials which are deeply significant to the Gen X experience. I'm fascinated by generational theory and the pop culture that influenced our formative years.
I was a teenager of the Grunge Era. I saw some of the greatest bands of that time live from the front row, and was a battle-born contender of the mosh pits. I came of age right as the culture history of Gen X pivoted. As a high school freshman, I could see the influence of first-wave Generation X culture as upperclassmen wearing Van Halen tee shirts passed me by in the hallways. Then, a couple of years later, the pop culture of second-wave Gen X took over and friends wearing Pearl Jam tee shirts would wave to me from down the hall. While The Breakfast Club set the tone for my earlier high school years, Singles set the tone for the later ones.
I was a child of the Cold War. Most of my growing up years took place during the Reagan Administration when it was supposed to be "Morning In America", though I don't remember it ever feeling that way. A portion of my elementary school years were spent in Tornado Alley, so our safety drills doubled as nuclear drills. I was deeply affected by the death of Samantha Smith, a Gen X ambassador for understanding and reconciliation during that time. Near the end of the Cold War, I watched the January 1986 Challenger Disaster happen live from a classroom in my elementary along with millions of other Gen Xers. I will never forget the sting of losing all seven of my heroes in the same moment.
I was born on a US Air Force Base soon after the Vietnam War came to an end. My earliest memories include watching New Zoo Revue and looking through my Bicentennial View Master at Sigmund and the Sea Monsters 3D reels. I remember playing with Fisher-Price Little People and mini Muppet Show characters in a metal dollhouse made in a 1950's architectural style even though the post-war 'golden years' had long since departed by the time I came into the world.
What I could not know as a toddler learning to walk on shag carpet was how all the boom and bust that accompanied the transition to the new millennium would affect my life, from the cities and towns I lived in to the jobs I would work. During the height of the Oil Boom of the early 1980s, I was learning to fly a private plane just as the training wheels were coming off my bike – I knew that this, together with the Cadillac in our garage and the caviar in our fridge were empty status symbols of the time. When the mid-'80s bust came, I remember newly-jobless people leaving town as fast as possible. I remember the anxiety I felt standing on the main street of my small desert town on the Texas-New Mexico border, grappling with recession and poverty, where wealth evaporated like morning dew. The 1980s taught me to hold everything I own loosely and that materialism is hollow. The 1990s continued to reveal the importance of turning away from all that had gone wrong in society in the previous decades. I also learned to not get pulled so far down into '90s nihilistic thinking that I would lose all hope. Because sometimes all we have is hope.
Of cassette tapes I popped into my Walkman as a kid, U2's The Joshua Tree is the one I listened to the most. When I got my first CD player, U2's Rattle and Hum is the CD I listened to the most. Nothing much has changed, after all these years, they are still my favorite band.
My spiritual journey toward my Eastern Orthodox Christian faith has been stitched together with felt, stained glass, incense, icons, and pixels. This path began with learning about the Gospel on a flannel-graph in my pre-school days to studying the world's religions in my college days. I have sought spiritual direction from Catholic nuns and sensed the presence of God as I looked upon the giant stained glass windows of Paris' Notre Dame. I have been a hospital chaplain and I have done relief work in Mexico. I worked in Ireland as a camp counselor during the summer of '99, at the start of a truce with 400 years of religious history depending on it. I have attended liturgy with Orthodox monks who, naturally, had once been the counterculture punks of Generation X.
And I've got a story to tell.
While I was in college, various professors mentioned the work of Neil Howe and the late William Strauss, and how there are patterns in the tides of history and in the collective personalities of generations. I knew this subject would became part of my life's calling. I had no idea what that would mean until many years later when I became a Generation X writer.
Stuff I like:
Good coffee, Route 66, symmetry, chocolate, desert sunsets, social theory, slam poetry, vintage Gen X stuff, quirkiness, good conversation, paradigm shifts, photography, and metaphysics.
According to Klout.com, topics I have written on that have been the most influential online include Christianity, justice, healing, immigration, feminism, charities, non-profits, and philanthropy.
In all the years of my Gen X existence, sometimes the only thing that has kept me alive when it seemed the lights had gone out in the world was a different source of light. I found it behind the glow coming from the pixels on the screen that displayed the video games of my youth, in the lyrics on the CDs that I listened to as a teenager, in the landscape I found myself throughout my nomadic existence, and in many other things that have made me who I am. It was God. It was grace. It was hope.
This is my benediction:
May it be through the pixels that illuminate my writing and in the spaces between them, that this hope and this grace reaches you.
(c) 2011- 2016 Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved