Catching Up

Liz Lidgett...a rising star in the Des Moines community, and a valued friend. (Rodney White/Des Moines Register)

A few days ago, several friends were interviewed for a cover story about Millennials and the perception of their generation

They shot down the notion that their generation are selfish and disconnected.  I agree with them.  Maybe because we live here in Iowa, but I’ve seen more Millennials active in organizations, being creative, starting their own companies, and doing other things that I wouldn’t imagine nearly 15 years ago when I left campus life, Des Moines-bound, with a Bachelor’s Degree in tow.  

I’m a late bloomer. 

I was late to the young professional movement in Des Moines, late to the tech startup movement, pretty much late to anything.  I couldn’t help but to think to myself while sitting during the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 event on Tuesday, just how lost, or behind, this Generation X-er feels.  

I’m trying to catch up.

When you grow up in an environment where the script is “finish high school, don’t knock any girls up, go to college, get a job (any job), get married, have kids…”, it is drilled into you not to deviate from that list.  So, imagine how behind I was when I finally joined a young professional organization, elected to a non-profit board, and writing up agendas and minutes for another organization…at age 29. 

Today, at age 36, I feel somewhat conflicted…and missing in action.  Just as people are starting to see and take notice of what I’m doing in the community as an Xer, I feel that I started too late.  Generation X‘s time in the spotlight is dimming and Millennials are now the new superstars.  Don’t get me wrong, I received two community service awards last year.  I’m appreciative of both awards, but I don’t spend time doing the “glory days” circuit, reminding people of my past accomplishments. 

Millennials are trending and they are, rightfully so, receiving the attention.   

Mad Men opening montage. (Courtesy of TV Worth Watching)

The maddening part is that the more I try to catch up with the Joneses (Boomers and Millennials), the further behind I fall.  If I’m not creating a startup, working as an executive VP at a bank, or cajoling a business executive to have coffee with me and invite him or her to be my mentor, I’m falling from the sky, like the figure in the opening of “Mad Men.”  

I was taught to keep my mouth shut, figure it out yourself, and grind for everything.  Deconstructing that mindset has been the most difficult.  People tell you how great you are as an individual and volunteer, but internally you feel that there’s no one to throw you a life-preserver when you’re drowning inside. 

Especially when it comes to a career or work.  If you haven’t achieved something in the business or work world, then the perception is that no one will give you the time of day, unless you do something phenomenal or rise up the ladder. 

That lack of achievement and accomplishment in the business world is what might be holding me back from being fully accepted and welcomed in the business community, especially in Des Moines. 

This despite being a rockstar in community service. 

I don’t feel “washed up” at 36, but as someone who is between Millennials and Baby Boomers, being lost in the shuffle is pretty common.

I’m still catching up to get to that place.  If I finally get there, as a late bloomer, will anyone notice? 

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