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Generation gaps are never so wide they cannot be bridged

JIM MORGAN

My youngest daughter, Christina, like most 20-year-olds, knows far better than her elders about most things. Clothes, music, cars, relationships … she’s an expert on all those things and just about everything else. Just ask and she’ll express an opinion. Often, you don’t even have to ask, if you have a 20-year-old (or for that matter a 16-year-old).I’ll bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. And I’ll bet that if you think back to when you were 20, you were exactly the same way. It is the way of the world. What’s funny is that at 50, it’s awfully hard for me to recall what my life and my attitudes truly were 30 years ago.Three decades is, after all, a long time. And the touchstones of my life are far different than those of my daughter. The term “Generation Gap” has gone out of favor – I can’t recall the last time I heard someone utter those words, but it’s nonetheless apropos.

For someone who’s been on this world just two decades, the measure of their world is very, very different from mine. In our society there’s much written about “popular culture” but few things are more fluid than what is popular. (As evidence I offer: MC Hammer, Hoola Hoops, Chia Pets and mood rings.) That which my generation takes for granted – movies, songs, events – as cultural connections have little to do with my children’s generation. Think about it. Someone who’s 20 has never really lived in fear of a nuclear war. Say “duck and cover” to them and, as they should, they look at you blankly. An 18-year-old has no idea what it means to “dial” a phone. The expression “you sound like a broken record” means nothing to them.They’ve never taken a swim in the ocean and worried about “Jaws.” Their lifetime has always included AIDS, music videos and MTV. Dick Clark is some old geezer they see at New Year’s and not on Saturday afternoons on “Bandstand.”

They don’t remember life without answering machines, cell phones and computers. Terms like “the Reagan Era,” or “Camelot” or “Watergate” have no meaning to them. They think Alabama, Boston, Chicago, Kansas and America are only places and not rock ‘n’ roll bands. A short story whose title I cannot recall focused on a rift that had opened up between a son and his parents. There was a line in it that aptly defined the difference between one generation and the next that went something like this: “I think I’ve figured out why generation gaps happen – as people get older, they forget things that were obvious when they were younger.”Christina was visiting this past weekend. She’s a junior at Auburn University down south in Alabama. Her life in college is typical of someone her age. She’s in a popular sorority. She gets good grades. She goes to parties and football games and socials in places like Atlanta and New Orleans. As any parent would when their “baby” is away at school, I worry about her, as does her mom.Her mother may worry enough for both of us – the clichés about the empty nests and mothers and daughters are clichés because they’re true.

The baby of the family is 1,800 miles away and it’s difficult sometimes not to think about the worst that could happen. But if I do shed three decades of change and focus on what I was like when I was off at college, I can recall that being left to my own devices, while a bit scary, was also exhilarating. At a time like this, it’s good to cast your mind back and remember how you felt at 20 and remember what seemed so obvious back then – that your entire life is before you and life is, indeed, a grand adventure. The touchstones of my life and my daughter’s are different, but the gap between generations is hardly so wide that it can’t be readily crossed.That’s one of those life lessons that one needs to understand at 20 and appreciate at 50. Publisher Jim Morgan writes a Tuesday column. He can be reached across the generation gap at (970) 668-3998 ext. 240 or jmorgan@summitdaily.com.


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