August 22, 2019

The Oldest Millennial

“Sometimes, it feels as though I am older than everyone else my age. Or at least the world conspires to make me feel that way.

I remember going to my oldest sister’s college graduation in 1996. The valedictorian stood up to say, “They call us Generation X, but I hope we become Generation Why.” I was 14 years old, and this sounded deeply profound to me.

I had been jealous of my sister, that she belonged to this group that had magazine covers devoted to them and was old enough to wear baby-doll dresses and chokers. Even their problems seemed glamorous — ennui!, unchecked irony!, the existential dilemma of living outside of history, as philosophers proclaimed we all somehow were doing, after the Berlin Wall fell. I did not understand then that time would pass for us all, that we would not be living in this moment forever.

Maybe it was being a little sister. But I don’t think that was it. Looking at their generation from where I sat, not yet old enough to earn any glamorous existential despair, it seemed as if our generation could expect to inherit this same quiet desperation. Little did I know we were definitely going to be Generation Why: Why are you eating so much avocado toast? Why are you always so broke? Why did you kill fine casual dining and department stores and nuclear families? Why are you always so anxious?”

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