Life in Generation X has always been a bit confusing. What does the X stand for? I still can’t figure out the value of X from the 7th Grade! All I know is the Gen X years have been quite a roller coaster ride. Join me as I try to determine the value of X.
Growing up with parents who took part in protests in the 60’s, you were always told to stand up for what is right. This has not always served me well.
My first protest was in the 6th Grade. I had attended the same elementary school since kindergarten. I was always envious of the 6th Graders, because they had certain privileges. I know it sounds crazy as I write this, but at the time I wanted my 6th Grade rights! I worked with my parents to create petitions for each class stating what we were requesting. After lunch every 6th Grader had signed the petition and the principal was aware of our protest.
When we came in from recess, the principal came to my classroom to discuss the demands. It was his first week at the school and he was not aware that those of us who had attended the school for years looked forward to our perks as a 6th Grader. After the class discussion, I was called to the principal’s office and he contacted my mother to make sure she was aware of my petition. Having parents who were raised teens in the 60’s, her response was “who do you think helped her create the petitions?” I was never in any trouble for standing up for what I believed in, at school or home.
As I went on to college, it was great to finally be in an environment that encouraged you to express your opinions and stand up for your beliefs. The one take-a-way I overlooked was that this behavior is not seen as a positive attribute as you enter you career. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and way to stand up for what is right in the workplace, however, it isn’t accomplished in the same way.
Early on in my career I had to learn protests were the X factor. I had to learn when to keep my opinions to myself and when it was fine to make a suggestion on a better or different way of accomplishing the task at hand. Supervisors with years of experience don’t tend to like it when a younger person points out there is a new, more efficient way of doing it, essentially stating that they are out of touch with the technological changes.
As I became a supervisor of younger staff, I made it a point to always ask if they had any suggestions on how to more efficiently accomplish tasks. I did this for two reasons. First, it shows I value their input and second, it keeps me in touch with any new technology that could be applied.
Although I still stand for social justice, I learned the best way to do so is to volunteer with a non-profit organization. It gives me an outlet for my need to be heard, contributes to the greater good and ensures I keep my job.
In honor of “Good Trouble” John Lewis, rest in peace.
As a child, my parents always told be I could do anything. They would encourage me to be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up. Needless to say, through the years, this changed numerous times. As a preschool aged child, I thought McDonald’s Manager would be a great job because you could probably eat all the french fries you wanted for free! Once I was told that was not the case, I quickly shifted to President.
During my misguided youth, I actually believed that one day I could be the first female President of the Untied States, a pilot, a ballet dancer and many other professions. The X factor in all of this was no one told me that a 5 foot tall person can not be a pilot or one of the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.
I finally realized that due to financial limitations, physical limitations and numerous other limitations, you really don’t get to do anything or be anything. Although it was nice of my family to encourage me, reality made it more difficult to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Upon high school graduation, I did what was expected, I went to college. I’ve always admired people who recognized their talents and passions early in life and are able to make it their career. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations with no interest in the career, it was simply what an advisor told me I should major in based on a aptitude test. I have spent years trying to adapt my degree to fit a career I would enjoy.
I often think previous generations may have had life easier. They were expected to get married and raise a family. The option of what they wanted to do was never a question. Maybe that’s the X factor.