It's Time to Act Like a Gen-Xer: In Defense of Karen

We all need to act like a Gen-Xer right now.

Don't get me wrong.  Gen-Xers drive me crazy.  I should know, I am one. 

By the way, I have 11 friends named Karen, and not ONE of them has this haircut.  

We are the ones who invented cubicles.  We are the ones who don't like to get feedback.  We are the ones who keep emailing and can't seem to figure out Slack. 

But when it comes to surviving a global pandemic.  We all need to start acting more like a Gen-Xer. 

Do you know another nickname for our generation?  We are known as the Latchkey Generation.  Do you know how we got that nickname?  It's because we literally wore house keys around our neck using yarn. 

I was never a latchkey kid myself, but I had many friends who had yarn poking up above the collar of their shirt. 

Why did those kids have house keys around their necks?  It was so they could enter an empty, locked house when they got home from school. 

They couldn't answer the door or the phone.  They had to wait until their parents got home. 

You see, our generation was born when there was a shift in the economy.  Families were becoming dual-income households.  Moms were going to work, but there weren't after-school programs or daycare centers yet.  So we were left to take care of ourselves. 

And we did. 

And that was even while wearing baseball shirts with our names ironed on them. 

This is EXACTLY how we looked wearing these shirts in the 1980s.  Trust me.  

And now the entire world is being asked to become a latchkey kid.  So here's some advice from the generation who has done it before. 

Trust the experts. 

We knew who was in authority and we listened to them.  We didn't answer the phone every time it rang, or to go to the door whenever we heard the doorbell. 

Right now we have, in the form of news, telephones, and doorbells ringing in our ears constantly.  Figure out which sources of information you trust, and stick to those. 

Figure out how to be alone. 

Gen-Xers are masters at being alone.  You'd think we invented it.  Of course we came up with the idea of putting walls up around our desks at work.  I think our motto is "I'll let you know if I have a question, now let me get to work." 

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Recently, one of the apostles Elder Jeffrey R. Holland asked, "Do you like the company you are keeping when you are the only one in the room?" 

This is definitely something to think about.  How are you for company?  Do you like being with yourself?  If not, why?  What can you do to become a better companion? 

Don't be dumb.

Sometimes I look at all the things that we did as kids and I think, "How did more of us not get killed?"  Seriously, I played unsupervised out on the street for hours.  I loved wandering the desert in my backyard that was full of rattlesnakes, thorns, and poisonous plants.  I walked around the mall with my own name on my back. 

So how did we survive?  I think because we had to.  We didn't live in a bubble-wrapped world.  We had to be aware of our surroundings.  We knew not to be dumb. 

And in case you are wondering, water tastes best straight from the hose. (Not that I recommend you try it, I'm just saying.) 

Now more than ever is the time to be wise.  Don't fall for scams.  Don't waste your money by buying two years' worth of toilet paper.  Don't lick items in a grocery store.  Seriously, why are people doing that?  That's just always dumb.  

Use the gift of fear. 

We live in a fearful society.  Lots of quotes and memes get passed around reminding us to not to be afraid.  But I say our goal shouldn't be to get rid of fear but to learn how to use fear correctly.  Our generation wouldn't have made it if we had had no fear. 

Trust me, I have a healthy fear of rattlesnakes. 

I've actually done lots of research on this topic and I've already written an article about it.  If you want to read more about how fear can actually be a gift, click here.  I talk about how too much fear can affect our ability to be afraid when we actually need to be. 

Believe that this will end.  

If we had spent our time after school huddled in the corner crying and wondering if our parents were ever going to arrive, we would never have gotten our homework done.  We didn't have cell phones.  We couldn't text them every 5 minutes and ask, "When are you coming home?" 

Instead, we just had to trust that eventually they'd come home. 

This pandemic will end.  Our planet has had them before and all of them have ended.  I keep seeing lots of questions like, "When will [insert business] open again?"  "When will we go back to [insert activity] again?"  "When will we be able to meet in crowds?" 

Right now, we don't really know.  Our parents are away at work.  But they will come home.  This will end.  In the meantime, we need to believe that they will. 

So let's put a pause (an indefinite pause if I had my way) on the Karen memes.  Let's take a break from making fun of the Gen-Xers and start listening to them. 

Karen might actually have some good advice. 

Heather Ruth Pack is a former molecular biologist who has spent years in the nonprofit industry as a consultant to boards and executive directors.  She now is a content writer who loves to make people think, laugh, and cry... sometimes all at once.  As a New Mexican transplant, her favorite smell is petrichor. Google it.