People born between 1961 and about 1981 have had a very different life from those born in the prior decade. Often the media refer to them as Generation X. What sets them apart from the previous generation? Why have their lives been so different?

First, they have faced the highest unemployment rate in decades. And those Gen-Xers who do find a job must often settle for a low salary, little prestige, and minimal security. Some Gen-Xers have managed exciting careers, but frequently at the cost of hopscotching around the world wherever work is available. Second, many Gen-Xers grew up in single parent homes as a result of divorce. Divorce can be a traumatic event; many fear any kind of commitment and remain unmarried. Essentially, Gen-Xers are struggling to shape their own lives, often pursuing options that their parents would have never considered.

Let's look at two different Gen-Xers attempting to live their dreams. Jennifer, twenty-six years old, wants a job as an elementary school teacher. She grew up in a warm and loving middle-class family. Her parents encouraged her to go for whatever career she wished. After receiving a Bachelor of Education degree in 1992, she hoped to find the ideal teaching position in Oshawa, her home town. After graduation Jennifer did not get the job she wanted, although she held all sorts of others: as a camp counsellor, a teacher's aid, and even a McDonald¹s birthday party hostess. Then she taught English to children in Japan for a year. This overseas experience made her view the world as a global community, and she came to understand diverse cultures. Eventually, she found a job in Oshawa teaching English as a Second Language.

Sean, age twenty-eight, is another Gen-Xer. He just landed the job of his dreams: options trader for a major Canadian brokerage firm. Unlike Jennifer, he grew up only with his mother, in a single-parent family. An ambitious teenager, he worked at a local pet shop to cover his school expenses. This part-time job gave him not only a keen love of animals, but also a powerful awareness of the need for a healthy environment. Graduating with a Bachelor's degree in business, Sean took the best job to advance his career: he worked as a waiter! His nights at the restaurant left him free to scout all the brokerage firms during the day. After eighteen months, he found his present job. Sean now makes five-year plans that include owning his own brokerage firm, and operating a wildlife sanctuary in his spare time.

Despite living through many hardships, Gen-Xers appear to be thriving. No doubt, they were better educated, more skilled (for instance, more computer literate), and more idealistic than those born in the previous decades. Gen-Xers are still forging ahead with a vigorous entrepreneurial spirit, doing their best to write their own life scripts.