Aging is a funny old thing. As a youngster, we want to be grown-up, and look foward to being older and knowing more about the world; birthdays are fun and occasions to be looked foward to and celebrated, and it seems that life is full of excitement and interest.
Over time, as we grow older, we see a reversal of our feelings occurring: We look back on our childhood with fondness and wish we could hold back the advancing years, birthdays become markers of growing older – something we’d rather not think about, and less of a celebration, than an unwanted reminder than we’re not getting any younger. Life loses some of its gloss and mystery, becomes more predictable and less interesting, and the future never looks quite as rosy as it did when seen through youthful eyes.
Today is my birthday. It’s not a notable or ‘special’ one, just another notch on life’s bedpost, confirming that I’ve survived the ravages of another 12 months, and a reminder that it’s time to rinse and repeat, all over again for the next 12. I’m not particularly distressed or depressed about it – but it does cause me a little concern that I seem to have reached an age when – if asked that irritating question, ‘what do you want for your birthday?’ – there is absolutely nothing that comes to mind. When my sister asked me that question last week, I was determined to come up with a decent answer, rather than just ‘errrmm…’ and I spent a good hour poring over the pages of Amazon trying to spot something that I’d really like, but all to no avail. That’s rather disappointing, don’t you think? All the more so, because now I’ll inevitably be the recipient of at least one book I’ll never read, chocolates I really shouldn’t eat, or some sort of ornament or home decor that will have to be placed on display, but which I would never have entertained buying for myself in a million years!
I’m not ungrateful. Just getting old and grumpy!
To be fair, I’m glad that I’m not younger, (or older, for that matter!), 10-15 years either way and I think I would have missed out on the best period in recent times to grow up in. A little older and I’d have been a ‘Boomer’, which although would have seen me exposed to the joys of psychadelia and being a free spirit, I really don’t think I’d have fitted in, and then to be thrust thereafter as a young adult into the austerity of the 70s, along with Cold War fears and a somewhat grey and unappetising world, isn’t something I’d have relished. As for more recent times, who’d want to be a Millennial, all wrapped-up in cotton-wool, and full of entitlement and misplaced attitude? No thanks!
Fortunately, I grew up during the remarkable sweet spot in between those two periods that saw me able to thoroughly enjoy the late 1970s through to the 90s as my formative years. Yes, I’m a proud and fully paid-up member of Generation-X, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be part of it. We, hands-down, had the best music: From the tail-end of proper punk, denim-clad heavy metal bands and grunge, all the way through to new wave and some of the greatest and most enduring music that’s ever graced the pop scene. We enjoyed the first pioneering days of digital entertainment, and the excitement of the birth of the internet, and nobody cared that unemployment and interest rates were sky-high, apart from our parents, because we had cheap Special Vat cider! Political correctness hadn’t been invented, and women’s lib, meant that Sarah Jane Smith had more ballsy roles and less screaming in Doctor Who, although – thankfully – there was never any chance that the Doctor himself would ever grow boobs! (How times have changed).
Happy days indeed, and a time that I probably appreciate far more now, than I ever did when I was growing up through it. In comparison, the world today is a lot less colourful and very bland: Everything today mirrors everything else, we’ve become a cookie-cutter, McDonaldised, watered-down version of society, where everything appears in muted tones, and any sharp edges and rough surfaces have been smoothed-out, for our own protection. Everything is standardised, categorised and stabilised, practically euthanised! Originality and creativity are frowned upon, and everything feels very, very
Today’s world is one where rock concerts are viewed through an iPhone held shakily aloft, photographs are meaningless, unless duck-pouting selfies or following meaningless trends mimicking the latest nonsensical viral meme. Whilst ‘news’ is filtered through the lens of censorship, popular opinion and ‘mother-knows-best’ pseudo-mentality. Cars are grey and shapeless, silent and follow routes planned by satelite… Safe, unadventurous, on-time and with no interesting diversions with all their potential for discovery and exploration.
Perhaps that’s why growing older is such a disappointment to a Gen-Xer? The world today pretty much sucks. Yet we grew up during a time of hope and imagination – the future we dreamed of was exciting and visionary; the music that accompanied it was daring and mould-breaking. We wanted cyberpunk… And instead, we’ve got spam! When we look back, we see how things could have been, and we wonder where it all went horribly wrong?
Small wonder that so many Gen-X refugees find solace in SL. Here, at least, is a world that still dares to dream, where innovation, diversity and creativity are valued, and where any one of us can explore as far as our imaginations dare to take us. This is the future we expected, this is the cyberpunk that was promised, this is Snowcrash, Neuromancer and Otherland smashed together and on a collision course with the unholy offspring of Bladerunner and The Fifth Element! It’s just that, somehow, the rest of the world never caught on, so we happy few, the rag-tag, yet glorious band of escapees from reality, we dreamers, ensconced and terminally embedded in our little niche virtual world are quite definitely in the minority… But how fortunate, how utterly blessed, are we?
I feel for those unfortunates born too early, or too late to be part of Generation X, I don’t think they can ever truly appreciate what that means for those who are in Team X. In the same way, those avatars inworld who joined bearing the name ‘Resident’ can never really understand the allure of those old-fashioned second names, and the sense of belonging to something bigger that they gave us. I suppose, like ‘Nam, they simply won’t ever really understand… ‘You weren’t there man!’
Traditionally, one receives gifts for one’s birthday, but today here’s a gift from me to you. Pick it up on Marketplace for free, and if you’re one of us (and even if you’re not), put it proudly on display to proclaim your impeccable heritage!
And finally, according to Judas Priest, you don’t have to be old to be wise, and I guess I’m not that old really. So, perhaps you’ll take this pearl of wisdom from a mere ‘youngster’ to heart: However old you may be, whenever you happened to grow up, appreciate and treasure it because nobody knows what the future holds, but you’ll always have your past.
Identity is the crisis, can’t you see?
X-Ray Spex – Identity