How often has a group of people been born at the crossroads of history? 1985-1989 is one such rare period where Fate or the Universe or Accident combined to shape people who exist outside the standard timeline. Googling it shows the Challenger Explosion, Pan Am crash, Exxon-Valdez oil spill and countless many other destructive events. It also makes me feel slightly ashamed for not stopping to remember my 5th grade history lessons, or hunt for the ancient Encyclopedia Britannica my mom pressed on me.
Although unmarked in national calendars and textbooks, those 5 years balanced destruction with creation. So I guess you could say duality was carved into our nature from the start. Out of the decades that gave birth to Generation Y, 5 years is really a narrow window. In such a short period of time, a global crossroads generation incubated alongside the collision of two worlds.
We opened our eyes to the LED glow of nostalgia and version 2.0 cracks in the foundation. Belonging to both, we cannot fully be part of either. Like our peers before us, time has made us into a Generation of Nomads. (See: Bowling for Soup’s one hit wonder “1985” for our anthem).
So many of these contradictions and catalysts and contrasts pepper our day-to-day life. Unprecedented technological growth + pharmaceutical commercials where death is listed as a possible side effect +simultaneous increase in population and decrease in global economy + reality TV: how we take the basic, unchanging nature of man and exploit it for dollars and 15 minutes of fame = ?
We can observe and always stay connected with all the gadgets and gizmos aplenty. Maybe because of this, today’s survival is a different game. You need social skills and networking capabilities, genetics, hyper-adaptability, up-to-date resources, and a ____________ charger. And lest I seem like a technophobe, let me make it clear that its one of the ironies of seeing the world like a Nomad.
We may grumble and protest how much everything has shifted in the past couple of decades, but we are ultimately John Lennon to technology’s Yoko Ono. We’re destined to be permanently in a Tug of Wars, whether it be like the breakup of the Beatles, Past vs. Present, Tradition vs. Technology, or that jerky little neighbor who destroyed our snowmen last winter.
Personally, I love that I was raised in large part outdoors, leading to many such rough games that probably trace its roots back to ancient days. My childhood was Capture the Flag, Friendship Bracelets, Disney classics, Beanie Babies, chaos-inspiring Slap Bracelets, rainbow colored floppy disks, Warheads (even though you were only cool if you knew which flavors were socially acceptable.)
I remember Are You Afraid of the Dark, unPC children’s shows, Happy Meals without WiFi, and giggle-screeching tape-recorded intros to girl power mixes . I remember the Boom Box melting into the Walkman morphing into the awe-inspiring iPod. I remember pecking out book reports on the home row, on a typewriter or frantically fighting off 20 other kids to use the dinosaur of a computer in our library.
I remember when MTV still was about music, and Spin-the-Bottle was still considered daring as a tweenager. I remember not knowing about sex until middle school when my friends and I eavesdropped in bus corners to hear whispered OMGs by the older girls. In an attempt to make me feel like even more of a horrified old-timer, a 14-year old recently smugly explained how she and her girlfriends keep their men interested.
Surprisingly, I did not yell, lecture her or freak out but tried to reconcile why this little bandage-dress clad brat seemed to be a watershed moment for me. It’s not a 9 to 5 workday anymore (more like 8-6 or 7 in office, while constantly staying plugged in somehow outside the office.) I see parents raising their kids by handing them iPads, letting them get Facebook accounts before they’re 10, and not sharing the old ways. Their balance has too much virtual reality and not enough reality.
Not that I consider myself to be any better, Neo to their citizens of the Matrix. As part of the Nomad Generation, I don’t want to come across as a wisely nodding prophet inflated with my own self-importance. Everybody knows the stereotype of the old man sitting in his rocker on his porch with a shotgun, ready to blast any errant kickballs that threaten his backyard. Do they, too, mourn our loss as those kids retreat indoors to master Angry Birds?