When nobody is driving - thoughts on being a Gen Xer today
My kids think it's funny that I watch 90210 reruns on The Soap Network every time they're on. That I search for music on iTunes with the keyword "80s." (And won't let them change the local 80s station in the car when we are doing the shopping.)
They can't understand just why it is that I laughed so hard, and cried, when I saw A Serious Man. Why Ben Stiller's characters in the movies are worth discussing to me on an academic level. Why I love Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, St. Elmo's Fire, Less Than Zero.
They think it is funny that I like things that "old fashioned." What they don't understand is that for me those shows and that music are not about being stuck in the past. They are about helping me to deal with the present, and to think about the future.
I remember when I was a kid and we used to take these long car rides to visit my grandparents. We usually drove about 10-12 hours, a lot of it overnight. My dad would get coffee at rest stops to keep him awake, and I would try to sleep in the back seat of the car, sitting up.
Most of the time I succeeded. But sometimes I would wake up. And I would see my dad's eyes in the rearview mirror, closed. Or he would be snoring. And then I would get really scared, and yell "Daddy!" to wake him up.
It's been 30 years since those car rides. In the interim my dad has cared for his parents through old age, illness and death, and still now oversees their buried remains. He is somebody who in many ways remains a mystery to me, but I know for sure he's a devoted son.
Nevertheless at that young age I grasped a terrifying fact on those car rides - grownups, no matter how good their intentions, are sometimes asleep at the wheel of a car I'm riding in.
As a teen and young adult I saw that theme reflected over and over in popular culture. It was my experience and it was there on the screen. And now, as an adult in midlife, it is terrifying to me to realize that what I saw 30 years ago remains true in many ways, and in many seemingly organized societies and institutions.
So I am going through this phase where it is dawning on me that I must drive the car. I must take the wheel. I am responsible. And I am not 100% sure of where the car should go, only that the road has potholes and that there's no way I can see all of them.
I am fortified by the knowledge that there are others out there who see the same thing and who have shared what they know in that collective database known as the Internet. Like on the pop culture shows I grew up with, and that are made by those in my own generation, I have faith that even if our well meaning parents can't always save the day, there are good people, friends and neighbors, who will help to see things through.