School wasn’t easy for Generation X students.
Granted, we didn’t have to walk 10 miles through snow (each way!) to get there every day as our parents did, but we endured comparable struggles all our own.
While our kids breeze through the educational system with every modern convenience, we were forced to be stronger and more resilient to succeed. Largely left to our own devices to bear burdens that no student today will ever have to face.
The fat pencil markings would be so faint that they were hardly readable, and the pencil would shoot out halfway across the page if you hit a grain. But hey – the Troll pencil toppers were kinda cute.
Using wall-mounted pencil sharpeners.
Having to parade to the front of the class and stand in line for the sharpener that mangled your pencil. Knowing that everyone could see your butt jiggling while you sharpened.
Carrying plastic lunchboxes.
They had cartoon characters on them and zero insulation, unlike the fancy BPA-free bento ice-pack creations kids carry today. The thermos always leaked and would squish your sandwich.
Getting smacked in the face with a tether ball.
And having to suck it up so you could make a comeback before your opponent won it all.
Making textbook covers out of brown paper bags.
Mom, can you save ten grocery bags for me? Then spending an evening selecting the ones that weren’t wet or stained to cut and fold into covers for textbooks – that were already written in anyway.Making textbook covers out of brown paper bags was just one way Gen X had it tough. #midlife Click To Tweet
Playing dodge ball.
Potential injuries be damned! Mastering a game that required you to hurl a red rubber ball at someone as hard as you could. While praying that nobody pegged you.
Having a kid with a gross wet thumb touch yours.
Then wiping it on your Jordache jeans as you played Heads Up 7-Up in class on a rainy day.
Using a card catalog.
Spending hours in the school library searching for the required ten books for your assigned essay’s bibliography. Silently cursing your fellow students when cards were missing from the catalog or books were misplaced on the shelves.
Always dying of dysentery in Oregon Trail.
Or having to write a tombstone epitaph for a family member who died of typhoid before you.
Being forced to stand in the corner as a disciplinary measure.
Public humiliation at its finest. You could be stuck in the corner five minutes or twenty, depending on your teacher. Attempts to turn around would be penalized with additional time added to your sentence.
Finding the right Trapper Keeper.
You’d search forever to find one that everyone else would ogle, only to see that the girl next to you in Social Studies had purchased the same.
Always getting a shack in M.A.S.H.
And secretly envying your friends who always got Mansions.
Being picked last for a team in gym class.
And facing the shame of standing by yourself as the kids on your defaulting team groaned and rolled their eyes, already bemoaning their upcoming loss due to YOU.
Having a teacher intercept one of your passed notes.
And hanging your head in humiliation as she unfolds the origami shape and reads aloud to the class. Cheeks burning as she relays your crush’s answer to the age-old question: Do you like me? Check YES or NO.
Transcribing lectures the old-fashioned way.
Taking frenzied notes by hand while shaking out wrist cramps and hoping you don’t run out of paper. It didn’t really matter because you couldn’t read your chicken scratch later anyway.
Squinting to read your teacher’s chalkboard scribbles.
And cringing anytime her piece of chalk made that awful screech. Or when that kid would purposely drag his fingernails across the board.
Trying to decipher notes on the overhead projector.
Your teacher’s handwriting would either be too small or too messy to read. Or he would lay his hand over what he had just written, smudging the ink.
Bearing the weight of 3,000 textbooks in your backpack.
And constantly trying to heal the permanent kinks in your back and neck. Even worse, having your JanSport backpack rip from the load only two weeks into the school year.
Praying that your sweaty feet don’t stink.
And taking off your purple jelly shoes discreetly in the corner of the locker room, just in case.
Hoping that your Hypercolor t-shirt still works after a washing.
And then letting everyone at school touch it so they can watch the hand prints appear and then fade.
Not getting the perfect jean peg or t-shirt sleeve roll.
And having to readjust your jeans and t-shirt sleeves throughout the school day as they keep coming undone, ruining your fashion statement.
Your friend not returning the Tiger Beat you loaned out during reading time.
The one with your future husband Corey Haim on the cover. Because it contained a 6-page feature on her future husband, Joey McIntyre of NKOTB.
Running out of Aqua Net on a school morning.
And having to dip into your brother’s Dep gel as a last minute attempt to adequately heighten and stiffen your curled bangs.
Not being able to find the L encyclopedia in your home collection.
The night before your report on Abraham Lincoln is due. And the sinking feeling you get when your mom confirms that she didn’t go to the grocery store the week they were selling L.
Getting “kidnapped” on your birthday.
Being awoken by friends who had arranged with your parents to show up during the wee hours of the morning – to dress you in outrageous PJs, muss up your hair, and take you to breakfast. You’d then head to school and walk around all day looking like a transient.
Being unable to perfectly align the holes on your dot matrix printer.
And then having to tear off the sides without ripping the paper itself. Hey – it was still better than having to use your old typewriter and Wite-Out.
Trying to decode messages on your pager.
Usually it would just be 14 (HI) or 07734 (HELLO), but occasionally you would receive a 911 and then have to figure out a way to get to a payphone between classes.
We Gen X students overcame nearly insurmountable obstacles to complete our education. Our kids are soft in comparison – what with their cell phones and tablets and world-at-their-fingertips technology.
But it wasn’t all bad. Today’s kids will never have the opportunity to race home and intercept report cards before their parents. Or buy Cokes from the cafeteria vending machines. Or even walk to school without chaperones.
And for that, I’d take our era any day. Immobile bangs, pegged jeans, and all.