Why it’s awesome to be 35 in 2015

generation cartoon - USE

Turning 35 in 2015 is like French aerialist Philippe Petit walking a tightrope between New York City’s Twin Towers in 1974.

You’re stuck between two behemoths, and you might go either way.

Born in 1980, we are the halfway generation – “cusp year babies.” Many people lump us into the so-called Millennial Generation. To others, we are the last dying breath of Millennials’ predecessors, Generation X.

In reality, we live in that microscopic gap between both.

We get the best (and worst) of both worlds, blissfully marching along to the beat of our own song. Think “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews – that happy, catchy anthem of the 90s (or bubblegum fiddle-pop to some) – and you’ve got us pegged.

To be precise – and precision here lies in the eyes of the beholder – Millennials were born sometime between 1982 and sometime in the early 2000s. Other classifications have them starting as early as 1978 and as late as 1985. In brief, Millennials were the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.

Meanwhile, Gen Xers were born sometime between the early 1960s and the early 1980s – after the Post-WWII baby boom. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies bookends them between 1965 and 1984, while a 2011 University of Michigan report concludes, “Generation X refers to American adults now 30 to 50 years of age, born between 1961 and 1981.”

All handy taxonomies yet hardly helpful for us – we’re still right on the edge.

Even defining generational traits are fairly fuzzy. In 2000, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe depicted Millennials as “civic-minded” and idealistic with an earnest, can-do attitude. Yet professor Jean Twenge challenges this notion, painting them largely as narcissistic in her 2006 book, Generation Me. Generation X, on the other hand, is less controversial and consequently somewhat overlooked. From attitudes on political and social issues to technology use and adoption, Gen Xers find themselves right in the middle. Once considered Marty McFly-slackers with ironic detachment, they are, today, seen as highly educated, active, and family oriented. Unfortunately for them, people simply pay more attention to once rebellious, now conservative Baby Boomers or loud-voiced, liberal Millennials.

So who are we – those born in 1980?

I think we’re an upbeat generation whose economic hopes don’t always jive with our actual economics, increasingly liberal, and (sometimes smugly) socially conscious.

In short, however, if you were born in 1980 and you feel more like a Millennial than a Generation Xer (or vice versa), that’s your birthright. “Cusp year babies,” those lucky enough to be heaved pink and screaming into the world in 1980, can ultimately decide which generation we feel a stronger connection to.

Which is why being 35 in 2015 is awesome.

You can choose what you want to be when you want to be – and with ease.

As One Republic’s hit song says, “Old, but I’m not that old /
Young, but I’m not that bold.”
That happy medium is where we emerge victorious.

Today, at age 35 people think you are an adult. You also like to think you are an adult. Until you don’t. Because, in your head, you can still smell the heady 80s and 90s aroma of big wheels and Lite-Brites and Al Gore’s “Internet” in its wispy infancy. You have one foot in the future and one foot in the past – both intoxicating.

For example, we are old enough to know a world without technology, yet young enough to be at the forefront of it.

We were the first to grow up with computers in our homes. Not today’s computers. Not these retina-killing, razor thin screens with 18 Wi-Fi connected devices. Nope. Green screen computers with prompts. On which you played Oregon Trail with the up-and-down, left-and-right, and ENTER buttons with enough naïve gusto that you became seriously downtrodden upon learning your river-fording ox drowned and, with it, lost all your winter provisions.

We also – if we wanted – had access to 250+ blazing channels of home cable. But not everyone chose to watch it. Instead, some of us stuck to 13 channels of honest-to-goodness TV. Where there was no remote, and you had to detach yourself from your favorite piece of furniture to flip a 6-inch knob attached to a black box. A box whose antennae required ample amounts of aluminum foil – called “rabbit ears” – to clearly project unwavering images of Jay Leno’s unwavering chin.

However, today, like our younger Millennial brethren, we are undeniably plugged in. Technology is our friend – in the bedroom, in the living room, in the kitchen, and most definitely in the bathroom. Don’t think we don’t toilet text with the best of them. A 2012 study found that 75 percent of Americans use their smartphone while on the toilet. We are prime culprits of this dirty-fingered demographic. According to this study, 91 percent of our age group, aged 28 to 35-years-old, perpetrates this frown-inducing act. We are tech-savvy.

And this is where we differ from older Generation Xers (and definitely Baby Boomers). Case in point: home for the holidays and shivering in my mom’s glacially heated suburban home, I noticed that my dad charged his iPhone outside of his bedroom. He did not sleep with his cell phone in the same room. For us? Unthinkable. Our smartphone and charger remain eternally, and comfortably, right next to our bed. Alarm clock, social media feed, work and personal email, and news aggregator all in one. Our smartphone is, again, our good friend.

Yet it is not necessarily our best friend – the unfortunate truth for most Millennials and today’s Generation Z.

This is because of one simple fact: we once knew a simpler, slower world. We still appreciate it. And, at times, we yearn for it. Not being so…connected.

And this, in itself, very neatly sums up our present state-less state. We were born in 1980. We just turned or are about to turn 35 in 2015, and we are not connected (not fully at least) to those who came before us or those who came after us.

For me, it’s pretty awesome.

We are young enough to be considered edgy, yet not so young as to be considered naive. If we are righteously idealistic, we have lived enough for our ideals to be at least somewhat right.

Just let us figure ourselves out. We’ll change the world while we’re at it.


  1. Mr.S says:

    Damn Katie, glad to be with you on this one, I’m a 79’er thought I always felt it was better to be a 69′ on so many level but so I digress….needless to say I’d go with the REM tics. Thanks, great read. Mr.S


  2. Turning 35 this year myself; never felt more confident…definitely feel energetic and optimistic; great writing here!



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