As the children of the Baby Boomers and grandchildren of the Greatest Generation, Generation X (the "X" symbolizing the absence of a specific generational cause or purpose) was born with big shoes to fill. If Gen Xers have ever felt a nagging sense of purpose, wondering what their contribution to history should have been, that comes as no surprise. After all, their grandparents saved America and the world from Fascism and Nazism in the 1940's and their parents were idealistic revolutionaries and catalysts of political and social change in the 1960's and 70's. In comparison to those incredible accomplishments, surely the generation to follow had some great feat awaiting them. However, looking back, what has Generation X done? What contributions have they made? What defines them?
In the case of Gen Xers perhaps their identity is not so much tied to any historical contribution or accomplishment as much as it is the shared culture and experiences of their youth. Aging generations often believe that life was better and simpler in the past than in the present. Considering the increased pace at which America has progressed in the past several years, it is natural for Gen Xers to believe themselves the last to enjoy the good old days. They were the last to experience a type of American culture that no longer exists and will never exist again. Besides, does anyone really believe that Generation Y (also known as the Millenials) will look back upon 2010 with the same fond memories?
Every generation has their moment in the sun, when they hold the reigns. Right now it is the Boomers but as they head into the golden years, their children await their turn. As that happens, it may not be too far fetched to believe that the Gen Xers, closing in on 50, will still have an opportunity to make their mark on history. Perhaps what will come to define them will not be merely a shared culture of their youth but their accomplishments in later years, or even better and more significantly, the journey in-between.