Generation Gap: Fighting A Loosing Battle?

My mom and her toy piano on the left. me with my cousin's Nerf gun and Barbies on the right.

My mom and her toy piano on the left. me with my cousin’s Nerf gun and Barbies on the right.

     I live in an interesting country, I like to define it as a “Second World” country. See, we seem better than some “Third World” ones in many aspects, but not near the “First World” ones. And then there are the specific problems that are material for another post at another time. But recently, and by this I mean more or less the time that is usually given to define the millennial generation, we have worked harder at trying to be part of the glitzy “First World”, even as we watch it have problems just as bad or worse than ours. And this has brought some interesting changes in the relations between parents and their young adult children.

Millenials, those of us born from the early 80’s to the early 2000’s have something that makes us stand out from older generations here in this little island. Our Baby Boomer’s revolution was the growing involvement and interest in the movements for independence. They where part of those fighting for equality in the Civil Rights movement, specially those part of the great migration who ended in the US. My mother and her siblings are part of this generation mostly. To her the Baby Boomer is what happened here in Puerto Rico. In other words, while not ignorant of the events, to them it was things going on somewhere else. Our Great Generation was still working in sugar fields and where in some cases forced to learn English, they reacted by becoming either supporters of turning the island to a state or rejecting the US altogether. But their connection to the culture of this country was still coming from outside, from radios or letters from those that where living there.

Unlike those before us we where very much in tune with what we were missing. Slowly we became more and more saturated, our toys would be those that we saw in commercials in cable. We ate fast food from menu’s in english. Our fashion mirrored those that we saw our pop icons wear. In less than a decade the island changed and was at least fewer steps behind what we had been before. We where the scholarship kid in the private school. We still got things a bit late, movies would be here a week after, toys sometimes never made it, clothes would stay “In Fashion” longer because either we got shipments later or many people couldn’t afford to change with every season. Of course we still get to know how these fashions where moving and learning that we where being left behind as much as we liked to think we where ahead. Blogger Erin Lowry in her blog Broke Millenial explains it perfectly how it is to be the odd one out in these situations :

After the bubble burst, I started to take in my surroundings without the rose-colored glasses. I noticed the two-karat diamond hanging around the neck of a 15-year-old. I could spot the difference between a real Louis Vuitton and a fake. I quickly learned which name brands were true luxury and which were luxury for the 99 percent. I noticed all these things at school and went home to sit on a leather couch my parents had owned since before I was born.


The Times They Are a-Changin

Now why all this? Because defining ourselves by how others are is becoming a growing problem and making many of the Millenials here feel even more depressed of the state they are in. Not moving out of your house while you studied was not something new but with periods in college extending the focus is not why haven’t you moved out, it has been why aren’t you done with your under graduate degree? From very early this was a culture that valued study and encouraged people to study after high school but now it has become expected that we will move to graduate school because “You can’t get a good job with just a B.A”. Now no, this is not much different from the state of Millenials in the US. The comparison problem comes in that parent’s have been exposed to these thoughts of all these things that before might not have been too much of a big deal are bad.

“Come mothers and fathers /Throughout the land /And don’t criticize /What you can’t understand /Your sons and your daughters /Are beyond your command /Your old road is /Rapidly agin’ /Please get out of the new one /If you can’t lend your hand /For the times they are a-changin’.” Bob Dylan

Things have always been hard in this place, and the young people always have to fight to get ahead. Education beyond school has never been a question here and for a time we where sure that all we needed was to want to get ahead. And it was never a question that while we did that we would not have to worry about things like a rent or other stuff, you did that after or during college, you married or you moved out after graduation when you had your first “real job”. But now as a nation we have seen that this was not what was “right, like Lowry says our bubble burst and we realized we where a lot more behind than we thought. I still remember my mom’s youngest sister staying in her home until late in life, being the only one of the girls among five siblings to not marry when she was out of college she only moved out when she could afford a rent without problems. She was not expected to be out fast, there was no problem with her part-time job at Sears (taking pictures which is still a hobby of hers) because everyone knew this was only to not be mooching off my grandmother. By comparison, there has been a subtle campaign to get me to move beyond my job behind a counter. I don’t plan on this being my life, but I know right now, even with a degree, this is what I can get. And I need to pay off my loans.

My mom and my aunt on the left, me and my younger sister on the right.

My mom and my aunt on the left, me and my younger sister on the right.

Like I said at the start, we see ourselves as “Second World”, we know we are part of that 99 percent but we are sure we are close to the 1 percent. Generation gaps have become larger and larger with many discussions between parents and children going around the theme of “When I was your age…”. From what I hear of my peers here they get very frustrated that they can’t get said parents to see the amount of change that has happened. Adding to this that we are part of a generation that can’t go to their get go solution which was going somewhere that is not in this situation. But hey, thanks to the exposition we have had since kids, this generation is paying attention to how to get beyond these situations, not let them put us down. In the end, we might have different problems with our Baby Boomer parents, we still share that there is this gap. And odds are, we will have it with our own kids.

How do you work with this generation gap? How have you been able to keep a good relationship with your parents? Feel free to share your own experiences.


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