11/2/17: The Oregon Trail Generation

Stuck in the middle and I like it– One of the things that came up at dinner one night with friends in Ohio, is that being born between 1981-1983 has put us in a generation that is not quite Generation X, but not quite the Millennials either. Wikipedia says it is sometimes referred to as Xennials or Generation Catalano. These are the cusp years that are supposedly the late 70s and early 80s. The name Oregon Trail came from the much beloved Apple II computer game. I still remember going to the computer lab and logging in to the old green screen computers and typing in a code to log onto them. It was cool back then, but I wouldn’t have the patience for them now. Our cusp generation was born before computers, tablets and phones overtook life, but still in years where we learned how to use computers. I actually didn’t get a cell phone until I was in college and even then I shared it with a friend because it was cheaper to call home that way than to use a calling card. I didn’t have a phone attached to my hip or wifi at home, and I still know how to use all devices easily and strike up a conversation that does not involve any of them.

As we continued to talk that night, we talked about the good and the bad about the Millennials and how we feel thankful to have made it into this world without the expectation that you would be available 24/7. If you wanted to call someone, you’d have to memorize their number and call them when they were at home. If you missed them, they’d call when they had time or got your message. We are a generation that is said to “remember a time before the digital age, but barely.” It allows us to have both traits of Gen X and the Millennials. Anna Garvey says “both a healthy portion of the Gen X grunge cynicism, and a dash of the unbridled optimism of Millennials.” I definitely remember AOL, but I never had Facebook or texting to distract me or share the latest new with. Or thankfully, I never experienced Facebook shaming. The only problem with where I fall, is I take offense to people who are constantly on their phone.

I really try not to do this. I try to understand that it is acceptable by most to have their phones out at dinner. That people aren’t trying to be rude by checking their phone while you are talking to them, but it definitely strikes a chord in me when it happens. I have also gotten used to needing to be available. For work, for family or friends. I am used to checking my phone for email or to look at Pinterest or ThredUp to entertain me. Especially since I have been staying home, when there is a quiet moment, I will reach for my phone before a book or turning music on. It has also become a part of me. As confessed before, I would even respond to texts in the car. So how can I use my phone so much and still be offended when others pull it out? I think it is because I am stuck in the middle. I’m also torn within myself where I belong. I want the days to go back to how they were, but I was almost addicted to ThredUp there for a minute as well.

I am thinking of all of this today as I try to bridge the gap myself and wonder how Bekytt is going to be raised. What will he need to know for school and to be successful, and what can we hold back on. I think it is hard to predict what will come out in the next 10 years, heck even 5 years, so it isn’t even a conversation that may be valid for me and my husband. We may decide something today, but then as technology and expectations change, we may think otherwise. I would love to say I’d be comfortable with my son riding bikes as much as I did growing up. My bike was my escape with my friends. I’d tell my mom generally where I was going, but there was no way for her to know for sure. It’s already hard for me to work out when I don’t have eyes or ears on him, how could I even let him go without having GPS on him? I’d like to say I can and I’ll trust him and the world to be safe, but the world is so unexpected these days. Even sending him to school will be scary. Thank God we have a nanny that I trust!

I can’t imagine the gap in understanding between my grandparents and Bekytt. My grandparents lives were so different and I always love hearing about life back then. How did they come to understand and thrive with the way things are now? I don’t even like the difference. Yet they all seem to handle it just fine. Thankfully I’ll still have those stories for my son. The “remember when” days when I can talk about rolling car windows up and down, dial up internet, and Oregon Trail. I do wonder what stories will be different for Bekytt though once he has kids. I wonder if we’ll really have hover boards like Back to the Future or live in the sky like the Jetsons. I’d like to think we can teach Bekytt a healthy in between world of knowing how and when to put his phone down, but also how to use technology to his advantage, but who the hell knows! –Kathryn Kraft, MPT

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