Generation X, Losing Our Icons
I was listening to Purple Rain, driving down the highway to the airport. My mind drifted back to the wild and free nineteen year old I once was. Back then at that age, it seemed like anything was possible, I had plenty of time and I looked amazing in anything I wore. My wardrobe back then consisted of purple and black lace tank tops, leather fingerless gloves, studded bracelets, cutaway tails and rhinestone adorned suede boots. As a Gen X kid, born approximately between the 1965 – 1984, I came from a small demographic group. We were the little brothers and sisters of the Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964. Baby Boomers bragged their “Aquarius Generation” as being pioneers of their day, with the best music and amazing icons such as Jimi Hendrix, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beatles, the Kennedys, Dick Clark to name a few. The had the women’s movements, Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King and Woodstock. I will always have the utmost respect for this generation. They paved the way for us and made history by being resilient, heard and validated.
But Generation X had their time, their music, their fashion…their imprint on the world too. We were the kids raised on Mtv music videos, Atari and Pac Man. We wore leggings, leg warmers, had punk rock hair and never had a cell phone! Our generation is now in a sorrowful time, we are losing a lot of our icons. How can that be? Our parents of the World War II Generation lived long into their 90s. Is it the environment? More added stress in our lives? Living hard, fast lives? Chemicals in our food? Lately, with such loss over the last few years, I wonder about this. My friends have posted on Facebook “why is God taking our Gen X Icons?” This post caused me to write about it. Losing Prince this past month has definitely stirred up a lot of emotion and reflection on my life. When is my time up? How much time do I have left to check off the places I wish to visit, the books I wish to publish?
When Michael Jackson left this planet back in 2009, the world felt foggy and surreal to me. I remember people calling out sick at work to watch his televised funeral. I was one of those people too. My mother and I watched through painful tears the farewell of an icon, to me, who was the greatest this world will ever know. I would no longer see him on t.v., watch him moonwalk, buy a new album or feel his spirit on this planet. I remember breathing in the same air as Michael when he was at Walt Disney World disguised as a Middle Eastern woman all covered up. I saw his dark shadow in a flash and felt honored to be that close to him.
Icons of our time mold us into who we are, the way we dress, dance, make love, think, react, and how we express ourselves. Madonna, Michael and Prince molded me into who I was during a time when I was exploring my sexuality, my fashion, discovering my dreams, discovering myself, finding my voice of validation, and how I was expressing myself. They are part of who I am. Two out of three of them, are gone. So when do I join them? The questions of our own mortality always come into question when we lose icons of our youth, especially when they die too young.
Generation X has had their share of saying good bye to icons far too young. Robin Williams left us in 2014. His infectious laughter will be greatly missed. Whitney Houston, taken from us in 2012 will no longer grace us with her heavenly voice again. Patrick Swayze was taken from us by cancer in 2009, David Bowie in 2016…all of them, and many more, taken from us too soon. It leaves a hole in our hearts, a lingering memory in a song, a scene from a movie or in a simple daydream.
Icons also span other generations too. We like to claim the wonderfully talented David Bowie as ours, though I know some Baby Boomers who would definitely say he is theirs. We love them, they are part of our lives and as I look back on my life during a Purple Rain song, I see how precious and short life truly is. We want our icons, as well as those we love to stay with us forever. Our time is limited here. Some stay for a very long time, some grace us with their presence for just a fleeting moment.
When our icons leave us, especially lately for us Gen X kids, we feel scared, our life is moving too fast. Wow, we looked up to them, now they are gone. Who will be next? When will I leave this world? It could happen, look at Prince! A part of our childhood is somehow gone when we lose them. That is why it touches us so deeply when they pass, especially when they are taken still in the prime of their lives. What comfort do I take in all of this? I hold on to their memory in the adult I have now become, because of them. Their music and movies and causes will live on forever.
So what will you leave behind when you you cross over? Our life is but a fleeting moment. Think about what you will leave behind, not material things, but things that matter to this world.
When I leave here, I expect to see my beloved mother, holding a cup of coffee for me with Michael at her side, in his beautiful military regalia of royal blue and gold, smiling at me, “Welcome home, Lyric”. All that I loved, admired, looked up to will be there.
May 29, 2020
May 23, 2020