Think about the generation immediately younger or older than you. What do you understand least about them — and what can you learn from them?
I am a member of Generation X (born in 1970) so this is a difficult question for me to address. Technically, the next generation would be Millenials (born in the early 1980s) but I’m not sure I have questions about them since I have literally watched them grow up. I also spent a lot of time with the previous generation (Baby Boomers) and my partner Ledcat is technically a tail-end Boomer.
The folks who confuse me are the younger Generation Xers – people who would now be in their mid to late 30’s. I think someone who was a teenager in the 1980’s (like me) experienced a completely different world than someone who was a teenager in the 1990’s. Maybe it is a fine line. But in general there’s an influx of young people eager to be part of revitalizing Pittsburgh who move here with graduate degrees, take the $22k jobs and join clubs, drink craft beer and have this vision they exude of what a new Pittsburgh looks like.
What I don’t understand is exactly where they see “old Pittsburgh” fitting in to their vision? There’ s a relentless grinding optimism about everything being hip, cool and awesome that shows an abundant lack of time spent at the knees of adults watching their entire world collapse around them. They understand that this happened, but they conflate the *intellectual understanding* with *knowing* what happened. And often it comes off as minimizing those experiences.
I realize that they don’t mean to do so – many are very committed to building a new Pittsburgh and tapping into the traditions we hold dear while others are seizing the day to build their careers and there’s certainly nothing wrong with ambition. There are not the stereotypical Generation Y or Millenials who don’t care – they care so very much in fact, so very much. I don’t doubt that.
But I can summarize what puzzles me in one question – why do they think opening a cool/trendy space in 2014 that is not fully accessible is acceptable? “Just one step” is not accessible. This is something I truly do not understand.
What can I learn from them? How to embrace and celebrate the joys of our cultural traditions. How to let go of the hurt, anger and bitterness that accompanied it. How to keep trying new ideas, new things, pursuing new adventures even when something doesn’t work out.
In their minds, there is a new Pittsburgh. I just don’t think they realize that to us older Gen Xers it looks as white, upwardly mobile and icon focused as old Pittsburgh. It does look a little more gay, but not so much queer.
Note: my use of the term “new Pittsburgh” is very loose and not meant to reflect the term “next Pittsburgh” which has actual concrete meaning and visions. I’m being somewhat playful with the idea that everything old is new again, not delving into a political concept.