It took demographers 30 years to officially name the X Generation, and many disagree on the years that define it. In the early 50’s Robert Capa produced a photo essay titled Generation X. Douglas Coupand published an ’87 article in Vancouver Magazine titled Generation X, which was the seed of his 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. At that point Generation X became official, although the defining years have since been broken into several groups cited by various government agencies, authors and demographic markers.
Meanwhile, the X Generation simply simmered in the undefinable social and cultural soup of war without reason, government corruption, civil rights movements including feminism, illicit drug use and a burgeoning sub culture, protests, riots, assassinations and a tendency to question and challenge authority, social norms and expectations. We were not all of us comfortable within a rapidly disintegrating social fabric; bullies and double standards were called into question and met with everything from Presidential Impeachment to UFO conspiracies.
Variously referred to over the years as slackers, post-boomers, baby-busters, the new lost generation, latchkey and MTV kids, none of – and all of these – would be true depending on the individual, opportunity, economics and personal choices. The spectrum of Generation X, at its earliest, began in 1956 and ended in 1984, though these demographics are now considered outdated even by government standards. Economist, demographer, historian and author, Professor David Foot asserts the years 1960 through 1966 were the Xers, and those born from 1967 to 1979 were the Bust Generation. As a witness and often reluctant participant, I must concur as half of my siblings are Xers and the other half are Busters. A clear and present delineation between the ways and means by which we were informed and formed existed, and there became a generation gap within a generation gap – the first cracks in a broken social culture paradigm were forming – and it was the Xers who fell through first.
Most of us rolled with it; plying uncharted waters both from within the system and the fringes of society. By the end of the 70’s, it was clear to me that too many shifts in consciousness had occurred and were accelerating; building a momentum that was pushing the limits of my tolerance for what was what I began to think of as some kind of a limbo state. The calm, powerful knowing that had helped me navigate through the rites of passage into adulthood began informing me of a coming of something big – really big – like, life-as-I-knew-it-would-be-altered big. It was the same calm, powerful knowing that made me realize that rolling with consumerism, corporate greed and blatant disregard for ethical misbehavior and mans’ own inhumanity to the planet and itself was not going to prepare me for what was coming, nor was it how I wished to roll. Constantly dismayed by how my moral compass was tested, tried and even convicted, I quietly quit engaging in 1984. I dropped out, moved to the Pacific Northwest and became first a deckhand on cruise ships, then a commercial fisher.
The waters I were plying were charted. The work was brutal, long, hard and dangerous. But I was in the natural world – physically and mentally conditioned by it – formed and informed by it. Time was only an asset not to be wasted. I lived by the compass – be it internal or mounted on the helm – and I thrived as part of the first wave of Generation Xers who forged their own path to self-authority and personal success.
I lived, worked, came of age and grew old enough to retire within a tightly knit tribal community that spanned the coastal villages from Ketchikan to Kodiak. I lived and worked in Alaska far longer than the 30 years it takes to reach Pioneer status, and I am not just an elder, I am an elder X-Gen, and this is my truth, my story and my legacy as a Generation X survivor. Somehow amidst the chaos I left behind forty years ago I have thrived. My life has meaning and there are so many instances of synchronicity and serendipity that give my experiences depth and fullness. This where my narrative begins.
Being an X-Gen is a tiny place in the post-tech world with a very tiny population of people born between 1960 and 1966. Many of my peers are gone. Lost too soon to the influence of excess or the anonymity of apathy. I moored my boat and walked the docks for the last time in 2012. I had rocks and minerals on the brain and my bucket list, and aging family members on the Northern Front. It was a pilgrimage of sorts; from the last temporal rain-forest in existence to the deserts of the Four Corners and many lands between and beyond. Eventually, the prodigal child would return in body and spirit, and 2020 well, this is full circle for me. I’m back where it all began. On the precipice of the rest of my life.
In the context of the times, I’m a heretic. Maybe even, to some degree, a mystic. I believe that in essence I am an evolutionary soul grounded in the natural world. Taking stock in a generation is huge and should always be approached with caution – even if getting there means flying by the seat of your pants or being buoyed by fearlessness half the time – because getting there for any generation is an investment, and the journey itself becomes i’s own reward.