Generation X-actly.

Posted on | July 10, 2012 | 5 Comments

At my last job, every time I got in the car with my boss, he made a point to tell me how lazy my generation is.  He hemmed and hawed about how we wanted everything handed to us, about how we wanted the shiny silver cup full of Dom Peringnon but we didn’t want to polish or pour or in any way do anything to pay for the booze.  In short, he believed, as most people do, that his generation had it right.  He believed that the road to success was paved with worn out designer shoes and discarded neck ties.  He believed that the only way to get ahead was to step on everyone in front of you… crushing their dreams, mashing their souls into malleable balls of something resembling… well, nothing.  His way of the highway.  He was the arbiter of success and without doing things his way, you would never… could never… reach any form of success in life.

And at first I would argue vehemently with him about the merits of my generation… my fellow X-ers.  Those of us who don’t see ourselves as lazy so much as… deliberate.  But then I gave up arguing and simply listened.  I listened as he told me the same things my father would say… the same things my mother would say.  I listened as he imparted what he believed… that success was a large house in the suburbs, a fancy corner office, an expensive tailored suit.  I listened as he told me that success was about dollars in the bank and 2.5 kids who have their college educations paid for by their heavily titled parents.  PhDs.  Masters Degrees.  Medical Degrees… and yeah, Law Degrees. 

I listened patiently, knowing that he would never see things my way… never understand that my generation isn’t lazy… we just define success differently.

I do not define success by the framed diplomas on my wall.

I do not define success by the amount of money in my bank account (luckily) or the size of my house.

And I certainly don’t believe that everyone in my parent’s generation believes that either.  But I believe that it is what they were taught by their own parents… pull yourself up, reach for the sky… work hard to get what you deserve.

That is how the Baby Boomers define success… how hard did you work to build what you have. How much did you labor to reach the pinnacle of your field, the happiness of your children, the size of your bank account.

What my former boss could not understand seems simple to me… “success” in my world isn’t about becoming the highest billing partner at the most prestigious law firm.  “Success” to me isn’t banking away millions (luckily) or driving the most expensive car.  “Success” to me isn’t about working as hard as I can to get to the end of my life with the most things, the most successes lining the walls of my life… pictures of kids and vacations and jobs well done.

I am not lazy.  I am meticulous.

I am not apathetic.  I am thoughtful.

I am not a bulldog in business.  I try, instead, to understand that we’re all just doing the best we can to make it through our work day so we can get to wherever it is we really want to be.

To me, success is being able to pay all of my bills and have a bit of money left over to buy something fun for my kid.  “Success” is being able to leave work at 5:30 every day.  “Success” is having my opposing counsels call me fun and enjoy working with me.  “Success” is knowing at the end of the day, that I didn’t do what my former boss wanted me to do… I didn’t come in to work early and leave late.  I didn’t hide pictures of my child to avoid seeming weak.  I didn’t give up vacations to bill more hours. 

Of course, I still measure my success by the numbers: the number of moments I’m exactly where I want to be, the number of hours I spend with the people I want to be with, the number of minutes where I feel good about who I am and what I’m doing.  At the end of my life, I want to look back and know that I walked the line between busy and available… always there for the people who need me the most but never shirking my paying job to do it.  If that means not having my name flashed across the side of the building? So be it.  If that means never breaking the six figure mark in lawyerly salary? So be it. If that means being unsuccessful in the eyes of my former boss?  I’m 100% okay with that.

Because we’re not just Generation X.  We’re Generation X-ceptional, Generation X-actly right.  We do what is best for us… call us selfish if you will.  But when I leave my job at 5:30 every day to be there to pick up my child? I’ll take Generation “selfish” over Generation “success” any day of the week.

Comments

5 Responses to “Generation X-actly.”

  1. R's Mom
    July 10th, 2012 @ 11:51 am

    I struggle with this issue – a lot! Because I agree that success is not about how many hours you bill, what kind of car you drive, how much money is in the bank, etc. But as a manager of some younger people entering the workforce (so I guess my struggle is really with Gen Y), I do see some laziness permeating through. There is a definite sense of entitlement that I see entering the work force, and a sense of not wanting to “pay their dues” so to speak. I’m not talking about working nights & weekends…I’m talking about things like thinking that they should be able to work whenever/where ever just because they have a laptop, so it’s okay if they don’t stroll into the office until 10:30 a.m. Things like whining when they don’t get the plum assignment, or the grandiose public recognition and praise from a chairman that hardly knows them because the employee hasn’t put in the time and effort to get to know them. Things like acting offended when I critique a memo, and tell them they can’t write as casually in a formal memo to a client as they can in an email to a friend. In short, the sense I get from a lot of younger people in the workplace is that they think they know the answer to everything, and everyone else is wrong. They don’t want to take the time to learn about the office environment and learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences.

    I know that what’s frustrating me is not the same as the “laziness” that your former boss griped about, and I 100% agree with your assessment of success. But at the same time, I think there is a large number of younger professionals in the workforce who act in such a way that it makes it easy for the baby boomers to paint generalizations about our work ethic.

  2. Law Momma
    July 10th, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

    You are absolutely right. There is a great difference between delusional self-entitlement and the preservation of self. I’m all about self-preservation and because of that, I don’t necessarily think I’m entitled to some of the “perks” that my peers who work longer hours might get at work. I’m happy to trade the six-figure salary they get for the quality of life I have.

  3. KeAnne
    July 11th, 2012 @ 9:28 am

    Fellow member of Gen X, I salute you! I think this adds another layer to my mixed feelings about Ann-Marie Slaughter’s article on our inability to have it all. My definition of “having it all” is very different from hers and more like yours; maybe that generational difference is why she is disillusioned and frustrated and I’m like, “meh, I’m ok.”

  4. Miss Pope
    July 14th, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

    Ann-Marie Slaughter’s article is exactly what I thought of too. We do define success differently. Success for me is practicing law AND leaving at 5:30 every day. I traded the 6 figure “partner track” firm job when I returned from maternity leave (and 3 months before my separation & eventual divorce). Working in the public sector is incredible. I get to enjoy my work and parenting. I love that my daily struggle is about how to do daycare pickup, fix supper, do bath and story between 5:30 and 8 and not about business development.

  5. MaconMom
    July 11th, 2012 @ 11:40 am

    Yahooooooo!

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    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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