#Opinion Of The Day

Generation X, xennial, millennial - does it really matter?

I have something to confess to the readers of The Sunday Times. Although this column and its social media-friendly handle, complete with hashtag (#opinionoftheday, or #ootd, in case you couldn't figure it out), is supposed to be for "younger writers", I don't feel like I necessarily fit that bill.

You see, dear readers, I am... an old millennial.

Born in the early 1980s, age-wise I fit the bill of a millennial, but I've never really felt the part. I mean, I had to go to urbandictionary.com to find out what terms like "bae" and "on fleek" mean. I've never even tried avocado toast or anything "unicorn flavoured", for that matter.

More seriously though, I'm not a "digital native".

When I was a child growing up, computers were not a mainstay in most offices, let alone homes, and no one had mobile phones, which at the time were the size of bricks.

I got my first mobile phone, a Nokia 8210, only when I was 18.

I remember being pretty amazed to find out that, in addition to making calls, I could also send out text messages with it, not to mention play Snake.

In my obsession with history and supposed "authenticity", I found myself listening to The Clash and Run-DMC, when my peers were into Simple Plan and 50 Cent.

Listening to older music when you're young gives you a sense that you're cool and in the know.

Being 35 and hearing Metallica and Green Day playing on the oldies station, however, is an entirely different matter.

The generation gap between me and some of my younger colleagues sometimes surfaces in strange ways. Like when I tell them that when I was younger I used to be able to see kampung houses from my primary school, I can see their jaws drop - literally, not figuratively, mind you.

Many of them are too young to have memories of Mr Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister, or of a Singapore before the MRT system existed.

Numerous people have written about the topic of old millennials. There's apparently even a term for people like me: xennials, a word apparently coined by webzine Good three years ago but which has gained currency only recently.

The name - a portmanteau of Generation X and Millennial - aims to describe how my "micro-generation", born between 1977 and 1983, is caught between these two groups.

I suppose, in some way, I brought this sense of alienation upon myself.

Like Captain America, trapped in suspended animation after World War II, I've always felt like a man out of time. In my obsession with history and supposed "authenticity", I found myself listening to The Clash and Run-DMC, when my peers were into Simple Plan and 50 Cent.

Listening to older music when you're young gives you a sense that you're cool and in the know.

Being 35 and hearing Metallica and Green Day playing on the oldies station, however, is an entirely different matter. It just makes you feel old.

So have I simply aged out of being a tech-savvy, social media-conscious millennial? It certainly feels that way sometimes.

But despite the age gap, I get along fine with my younger colleagues.

For the most part, our cultural touchstones - in terms of TV shows, video games, books, movies and music - are pretty similar.

At the same time though, I'm able to share memories with my older peers of a time before computers became ubiquitous, when newspapers were printed in black and white, and when there were only three television channels and none of them aired 24 hours a day.

Straddling two worlds is an interesting place to be.

Maybe instead of feeling alienated, xennials should be honoured to be able to be included in both groups.

More importantly though, maybe it doesn't really matter what year you were born in anyway.

"It ain't where you're from, it's where you're at," spat hip-hop pioneer Rakim on his James Brown-sampling 1987 single I Know You Got Soul.

I've shared laughter and tears with my friends and peers, no matter how old - or young - they might be, as well as fond memories of both the hard times and the good.

In the larger picture, perhaps these life experiences are truly the ties that bind, rather than the arbitrary boundaries of one's generation.

•#opinionoftheday is a column for younger writers in the newsroom to write about issues that matter to them and their peers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 13, 2017, with the headline 'Generation X, xennial, millennial - does it really matter?'. Print Edition | Subscribe