Generations

I’m a child of the 80’s. Even though I was born in the early 70’s, I feel like it was the 80’s that really defined me. Or began my definition, at least. The music, the TV shows, the movies…not the fashion so much, maybe, but was anyone really defined by 80’s fashion? Well, maybe acid wash.

At any rate, the 80’s were what I’d consider my real formative years. Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, The Boss, WHAM, Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams (on vinyl, of course); Silver Spoons, Facts of Life, Family Ties and V watched as it aired, until we got a VCR; Goonies, Back To The Future, ET: The Extra Terrestrial, the Karate Kid, and of course the remaining two films in the original Star Wars trilogy on the big screen. So much neon. High top running shoes. White freaking pants. Over-sized sweaters and t-shirts. Riding our bikes around town. Heading home when the streetlights came on. Walking to the convenience store/gas station at the top of town for snacks on a Friday night. Having to take a bus to high school because it was in a different, slightly larger town.

And then, once we were in high school, the world seemed bigger and the possibilities kinda endless. I did a lot of things academically in high school, but I wish I’d done more. It was really the only time you could really experiment with things and not have to commit to a whole stream of study. You could try a sport or a club or a class or other extracurricular activity and not have to make it your life. I think I mostly did stuff I already liked – music, for the most part – and didn’t really try much for the hell of it. I took a visual arts class just because I could. And joined a couple of sports teams early on, but that was pretty short-lived. Still, there was lots to do and learn, if one wanted to, and I’d say I was involved at an average level. It was high school. I wasn’t super popular, but I had a few friends and we had fun together and that’s what matters.

When I came time to start choosing what to do after graduation, I don’t remember really thinking about it very much. I assumed I was going to university, and I had no idea what for, but I was sure it’d be great. I can’t remember what I thought I was going to do…I’m pretty sure “English Major” wasn’t my end game, and I started university as a Psych major, but for the first year, that rarely means anything. I took Psych 100 and 4 other 100-level classes that were the norm. English, Philosophy, Sociology…yeah, I can’t even remember that much. Maybe I took 2 English-like courses? I don’t know. I didn’t have to declare a major in any of the things I was taking, because they weren’t that locked down. Not like being a doctor, or something, where you have to take specific courses most of your post-secondary career.

In my final year of high school, I remember my mom talking about how there were basically only, like, 2 different streams to choose from, and whichever you chose made up the rest of your educational track. But for me, at the time, the world was my oyster. I could do anything I wanted, be anything I wanted. All I had to do was choose and work for it and it would be mine.

The only real problem is I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do. I had no idea. Definitely never aspired to retail, but that still leaves a lot of options. Maybe I couldn’t choose just one, out of all the things I thought I might like to do with my life.

I still have no idea, actually.

Looking back, I almost wish I hadn’t had as much choice. I mean, it’s hard to know what you’d like to do if it’s something you haven’t actually done yet. Haven’t tried, I mean. Maybe I should have done some co-op placements or internships somewhere, but in little towns, that doesn’t really come up as an option. I know I thought about going into Public Relations, which NOW would be pretty awesome, if I’d done that. I think. I’ve never done anything in that field, though, so I don’t really know. I don’t think I would have liked being a journalist, because I don’t like talking to people. I’d probably love working with animals, but maybe I just love being around them. It’s hard to know for sure, because I’ve never worked with them.

I thought it would be terrible to go through school for something, only to find that you don’t really like it, and have to start all over again.

Yet here I am, with two bachelor degrees (one in English, one in Education), and I’ve spent the majority of my adult life working in retail, because – of course. What the hell does one do with an English degree? Teach. And yet I have never found employment as a teacher, either, so…retail it is.

Those who can’t do, teach. But what those who can’t teach do? Work in retail, apparently.

I wonder how different things would be if I’d had less choice? Would I be better off? Or worse? Or just different?

I can totally just change my career at any point – or, like, GET a career. But again, what do I want to do?

I have no idea.

Does an abundance of choice end up stalling a person, I wonder? Maybe I’m still just going over my choices to see what I want to be when I grow up.

Adulting is hard.

(How’s THAT for good English talking?)

I wonder sometimes what it’s like for kids now. So much has changed since I was young. “Back in MY day…”

I had my first email address when I was in 4th year University (so 22 or 23 years old), and my first cell phone when I was 30 years old. Growing up we got 2 channels, sometimes 3 if the weather was nice.

Now I have to choose which shows to watch On Demand, because my PVR will only record two at a time. And that’s not even advanced technology, because I am broke.

I know other 80’s kids relate to the basics of growing up in that era. We all watched pretty much the same shows, listened to the same music, saw the same movies. We can smile and reminisce together even if we haven’t seen one another over the past 20 years or more.

Do the generations since then have the same kind of connection? Or does more choice create a gap in the generational experience? With hundreds of channels and even more content available online, are the teens of 2016 watching the same television shows and movies? Are they enjoying the same music and playing the same songs over and over and rocking the same silly dance moves? Will they connect with others of their generation two decades from now, based on shared memories of a time they all lived through, without having met one another until much later in life?

Will those defined by these years of multiple choices find common ground with one another the way children of the 80’s do? Or children of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s…every decade has had its common experience, at least until more recently.

I wonder if they still do? Or are we just all floating in a sea of our own choosing, connecting on many different shared experiences, instead of a few?

Maybe I should have put this much thought into what I wanted to do when I grew up, huh?

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