Generation Change

The other day I was talking to one of my good friends from graduate school. She’s been working at the same company for the past 5 years and has been looking at moving to a new city, getting a new job, and starting a new field of research. There isn’t anything wrong with her job – she just wants something new.

To quote her:

I will have been here 5 years in march, a nice time for a career change.

I started thinking about the people I know, including myself, and the life decisions we’ve made. And I don’t think that we’re Generation X or Generation Y. No, we’re Generation Change.

We’re not the type of people who want to settle in relationships, and when we do “settle down” we understand on a deep subtextual level that there is always a possibility of divorce if it doesn’t work out.

We’re taught that if things don’t make us happy we shouldn’t just grin and bear it, we should make whatever changes we need to in order to make the situation better.

Three years ago this is why I left San Diego, CA for my post-doc position.

A year ago that is why I started applying for faculty positions.

I wanted change. There was a deep unhappiness for the present position that I felt could be resolved with a new place, new people, a new job.

I am a prime example of Generation Change.

I don’t see today’s 20 and 30 something’s working at one place for 40-50 years like our grandparents did. I don’t even see any of us making it to 10 years. Change, and changing up, is so deeply embedded in our psyche that we don’t know how to grin and bear it – why should we have to if there is a possibility of something better somewhere else?

We’re obsessed with upgrading, downsizing, minimalizing, consumerism, my tv is better than yours. We change our phones, our clothes, our TVs, our cars. Usually when we really don’t need to – for those few moments of glee when ours is the newest, the greatest, the fastest, the best. It is an addiction to change that we cling to. “This new thing will change me and who I am, it will make me better for having it.”

The only change Generation Change really fears is changing ourselves. Sure, we’ll change our education level, we’ll change our career, we’ll change our relationships, we’ll change our fashion sense, we’ll change our politics, we’ll change our religion, we’ll change where our money goes. We’ll change everything about us in a heart beat if we think it will make us happier in the long run. The only thing we believe we can’t change is who we are. We’re not the problem. We aren’t what makes us unhappy – it is the job, the degree, the relationship, the circumstance, the outfit, the politics.

What if instead of being Generation Change everything about our lives – we became Generation Change the world around us? Now there is a positive change that could in fact change everything!

Do you belong to Generation Change?


10 Responses to Generation Change

  1. I think you’re onto something with the restless/dynamic nature of our generation. I like that you acknowledge that our desire to change works in many different directions (we could be searching to upgrade or pare down, etc.).

    I’m still thinking through your point about being afraid of changing ourselves. I think I might almost find it reassuring that we have the potential to make changes to ourselves (and this sentiment of entitlement/empowerment to make change is perhaps an attribute of this generation?). Certainly I’m fearful of things, like wielding that power to make changes that could be mistakes, but at the end of the day, I feel like it’s a relief that when I do make mistakes, I can (likely) take another stab at changing/improving myself.

    I also like your suggestion that we focus on changing things that are bigger than ourselves. I think the nexus of “make changes to me” and “help make positive changes for the world” is exciting. (i.e., how can I change “me” (or my career, or my location, etc.) to be a better neighbor, citizen, friend, and steward of this planet?)

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  2. I think there has always been a tendency to blame externalities for our problems, it’s just that Gen X/Y have so many choices that it is easy to chop and change. And change isn’t always useless – just look how well leaving your last job has worked for you. In that case, the job was the problem.

    I think we’d do better to focus on changing ourselves than changing the world around us. Who doesn’t know a busybody whose life is totally trashed, but who spends all of her time telling other people how to run theirs? No one wants to be that person. And besides, it’s much easier to change yourself than it is to persuade anyone else to change.

    For instance, if you are worried about the environment, don’t spend all your time trying to make everyone else live more green. Live green by example – eat locally and sustainably, reuse more than you recycle and recycle more than you trash, walk or bike where possible, ect. Not only is the effect much more immediate, you’re more likely to inspire others by example than by lecture.

    Be the change that you want to see in the world. Trust me, it’s much more fulfilling than trying to legislate how the rest of the world should behave.

  3. 2blu2btru says:

    I am the opposite of Generation Change. As long as there can be positive progress and I can “make my way in the world,” I’m content and settled. Change usually happens to me more than I change things. I’ve learned a lot of patience through a lot of situations where I really didn’t have a choice except to be patient. The most that I change is myself. If a relationship isn’t working, I try to look at me first, as I’m the only person I can truly change. I try to change my circumstances by changing my perception.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to get the best that you can of certain things–certainly you want to choose the best person for you to spend your life with, you want a job that you like and that covers your living expenses and debt. I don’t think it’s wrong to realize you may need to downsize or minimalize your impact on natural resources. If “grinning and bearing it” leads you to being depressed, over-stressed, or starts you overeating or smoking, it’s not something I think you should do. While some people give up to easily and embrace change as a flight response, some people don’t know when to get out while the getting is good.

    I’m clearly ambivalent on this topic, LOL, but suffice it to say we all make our choices and we all have to live with the choices we did or didn’t make.

  4. Ness says:

    This is a good point. I think a lot of it also comes from the generations before ours. My parents have always wanted my siblings and I to do what makes us happy. When we’re not happy in a relationship, they want us to end it and find someone who does make us happy. When we’re not happy in our jobs, they want us to find something we do want. However, they’ve always encouraged us to make these changes in a mature way. To talk through the end of a relationship or to find a new, good job, before we quit the old one. I feel like I’m always hearing “do what makes you happy,” and I love that sentiment.

  5. I’m not sure if I’m reading this wrong, but I sense that you might not be completely smitten with “Generation Change.” I would consider myself part of that generation, but realize that the mentality that the generation adopted is solely a product of our environment. The reason why our grandparents/parents worked at places for 40-50 years was because innovation wasn’t a competitive edge then; efficiency was. The big whigs were old men who had experience because they had been at it for a few decades. This all change with the Information Revolution and the democratization of the Internet/Computers. With everyone have access to information, for you to get ahead, it has to be about how you use it. That is why change, flexibility really, is so valuable today, than ever before. And while our grandparents might look down at us with disdain, we are pushing ourselves and our environment to limits that could never even be conceived several decades ago.

    That said, my mantra has always been “be the change you wish to see the world.” While we are so concerned with making ourselves better by changing our circumstance, we should also change our surroundings to make the world a better place.

    • SS4BC says:

      I think that change for the sake of change isn’t always a good thing.

      Change for a purpose? That’s a completely different story.

      But changing your job JUST because you’ve been their 5 years? That just seems – silly.

  6. This post was awesome. I completely agree and you took the words right out of my mind.

  7. SP says:

    What a great post! I have noticed (and felt) the same things. We are in a year of decisions, and a large part of me wants to move abroad, just for the change, for the experience, the excitement. Something fresh! Even though I know that a “new life” won’t really make me any happier. Wherever you go, there you are!

    But that doesn’t mean that I’m not ready to “change up”. A lot of changes really can improve your quality of life.

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