I had a much-needed meet-up with a dear friend this morning. Between throwing back our heads with laughter and listening sympathetically to each other’s various tales, she brought up a mind-bending question:
Are we experiencing a generational apocalypse?
Well, I thought, shit.
Because the longer I thought about it, the more it rang true – in that incessant, clangy, damn-those-churchbells kind of way.
I look at my parents’ generation, with its general pushing down of the feelings, and then of C jr’s age and how the grey areas are talked about very frankly, and then at my own era, dangling somewhere in the middle. And how for many of us, the straggling remains of what our parents insisted were the “dangers” of life have been worn down to their true form. Which is, in almost all cases, a small bit of dust.
Rather than experiencing the terrors of parental extremes (“Drugs are bad! Sex can kill you!”), we gaze into the yawning maw of profound uncertainty, malaise, discomfort, displacement. And when we’re struck by profound loss, we know too much about our own psyches to simply muscle through.
And thank god. Because the days of traversing the rocky American landscape via covered wagon are through. I no longer have to bite down on a stick while giving birth on a straw tick because THOSE TIMES HAVE PASSED. Muscle through, my ass.
My generation is educated – some would say over-educated. We can be very creative. We can also complain a lot. We’re old enough to have lost parents and young enough to still need them. A lot of us made major life decisions not long after college, and for many of us, those decisions blithely bit the hand that fed them about ten years later.
I married a man I met in college and we stayed married for 10 years. During that time, my mother died, I discovered I had a half-sister, and I realized I was desperately unhappy. Of the various events that conspired to make me a crazy person, I was able to affect one.
I was the first person in my family to get a divorce, and in my wry-er moments I thought, How modern of me. It was an awful, awful time. As is often the rending when true change needs to occur. It was like straining to see in absolute darkness. Eyes wide open – nothing.
And then, slowly, pinpoints of light.
I think a lot of us are just romantic enough to cling to that sense of stability and foundational integrity we saw built by the previous generation. Which for a lot of those folks, my parents included, turned out to be a big empty room of Not Enough. But we went for the marriage and the graduate degrees and maybe even the kids and were arrogant enough to think we were reinventing the wheel.
Now, three years into my second marriage and the gift of a new kind of life, I’m watching some of my fellow 80s children experience the seismic shifts of changing lifestyle, marriage and divorce, death, birth, relocations both physical and spiritual.
Apocalypse is defined as both a great disaster and a prophetic revelation. I wonder if we can have one without the other.