Essay

Gen X: But We’re Always Changing – Essay by Carolynn Kingyens

By Carolynn Kingyens

We’re all influenced, in one way or another, by our generation. Take my generation, for example. Maybe we were coined after Billy Idol’s punk band, Generation X; or was the X, which already emotes a sense of danger by the letter alone, coined by the generation before us? Either way, we are the smallest generation sandwiched between heavyweights, the Baby Boomers and Generation Y/ Millennials.

Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980. We were the latch-key kids; some of the first who came from dual income households; children of divorce, single parents, or of parents who fought all the time, but stayed together for religious reasons.

I was born in 1974, which puts me in the middle of the generation-spectrum. We lived through the inception of MTV — “Video Killed the Radio Star”; Holly HobbieStar Wars, He-Man, and the Cabbage Patch Kids craze.

Who could forget Madonna performing “Like a Virgin” on the first annual, MTV Music Video Awards in 1984? I know I won’t. At 10, I was a little confused by her performance, but I remember really liking her white, party dress. Then there was DallasWho Shot J.R.?; underdog movies — Rocky and Little Orphan Annie; big hair and shoulder pads; Beverly Hills 90210Real WorldReality Bites, and the music.

I remember I was still in high school when I first watched Tori Amos’ video for “Silent All These Years” on VH1, alone, in the family room:

Been saved again by the garbage truck
I got something to say you know
But nothing comes
Yes I know what you think of me
You never shut up
Yeah I can hear that

That weekend, I went to Sam Goody to purchase Little Earthquakes, then went home, laid down on my daybed, and played the CD — from first song to last — uninterrupted, 57 minutes, 11 seconds.

More good music would follow — the grunge movement, that unforgettable guitar riff in “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (ending the reign of metal hair-bands), East Coast vs West Coast rap (RIP, Tupac and Biggie), the original Lollapalooza, Lilith Fair, and Woodstock revivals of ’94 and ’99.

Somewhere in the early 2000’s, I realized that a newer generation was taking our place on MTV. I started losing track of time, and began to feel my life becoming more like a Bruce Springsteen song, particularly, “Glory Days”:

Glory days well they’ll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

Then one day, I realized I had to adapt like Madonna. But it’s still a process for me, adapting.

Recently, my husband and I took our two kind, funny, creative daughters to a free coding class for kids at an Apple Store in NYC. There, we learned that 90% of jobs in our children’s generation will be technology-based, especially coding, as our dependence on Artificial Intelligence continues to grow; despite Elon Musk’s warnings; despite The Terminator movies. Nonetheless, we keep marching forward, maybe on a road to nowhere (nod to Talking Heads).

My daughters learned the intro to Swift code, and by the end of the class, they were manipulating a Sphero Robot over ramps, and in any direction they wanted from their own iPads. I was amazed at how quickly my daughters adapted to new technology, and to change, in general.

As my family and I left the Apple Store together, on our way to lunch, and then to the sprinkler park, I thought about the lyrics to one of my favorite Counting Crows’ songs — “Anna Begins” from August and Everything After:

“Oh,” she says, “You’re Changing”
But we’re always changing.


Carolynn Kingyens lives in NYC with her husband, of 20 years, and their two kind, funny, and creative daughters; a sweet rescue dog, and a very old, loving cat. Her poems have been featured in Boxcar Poetry Review, Word Riot, Schuylkill Valley Journal (SVJ), Tuck, Across the Margin, The Potomac, Orange Room Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Red Eft Review, Haggard & Halloo, and her poem, “Washing Dishes”, was nominated for Best New Poets by Silenced Press.

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nthanda

A Malawian online literary magazine that publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

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