Friday, January 17, 2014


I've been reading (and loving ) Alex title Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Like Eleanor & Park and The Interestings, it's SO '80s. And it's got me thinking that people in my generation are in a strange position. When I was born, it had not even been thirty years since people were held in Nazi concentration camps. That seemed like a particularly ancient history, even then. The eighties are about the same distance from kids born today. So, my upbringing must seem at least as remote to the teens I work with as those of Sally J. Freeman, or Elizabeth in Lois Lowry's Autumn Street.

I also think that Generation Y is almost a "lost" generation in terms of leadership in the workplace. We spent so long being subservient and respectful of our elders (the Greatest Generations and our Baby Boomer parents) that some of us still don't feel grown up enough to tell other people what to do. And our lifestyles aren't grown up. I think about my own parents, younger than I am now, dressing up and going out to formal events. There are no formal events in my life, and, having been to an opera and a couple of symphonies lately, I can say there seem to be very few left in our society. And maybe something's crushed our capacity to dream. We graduated college before the tech start-ups, before projects like etsy and kickstarter would have enabled us to follow and monetize our bliss. Now there are younger, hungrier Millenials nipping at our heels, and we're being told that we're too traditional, or lack the requisite skills of the "digital native."

Awesome image from Kim France's Refinery29 article on the '80s
I work in a state where the emphasis on college and career readiness is, in my opinion, out-of-whack. At the state level, and in many local school systems (thankfully, not my own, which has particularly robust arts and humanities courses), there doesn't seem any interest in teaching anything that doesn't lead directly to a particular career path. I thank my lucky stars for the "cultural literacy" vogue when I was in high school. I feel that all that knowledge -- call it useless or arcane because you can look it up on your phone -- has served me well as a citizen. But now I guess all this rote random factual information might be merely cluttering up my brain and inhibiting some of the strange and uninhibited creativity I see in younger people.

But I really don't want to spend all day making gifs or youtube videos or taking pictures of myself or my food. I'd rather read a book (or really do just about anything else) than reddit or do quizzes on buzzfeed. And I prefer face-to-face learning to virtual, and lecture at that. So I'm feeling like a dinosaur in many regards.

And as for the recent college grads who are finding the employment climate so rough, I have little sympathy. It took six years and two master's degrees before I made five figures a year. But, truth be told, I now have little ambition for a job beyond the one I have now. I could do it, happily, until retirement. I just hope someone younger, cheaper, and less inhibited doesn't edge me out of the way before I'm ready.

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