15 Things Gen X Loved About Their Childhood That Gen Z Won’t Understand

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By Sam Wallace

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Gen X fondly reminisces about a childhood filled with simple pleasures and analog experiences that stand in stark contrast to the digital age embraced by Gen Z. From spending hours flipping through music CDs at record stores and eagerly awaiting the latest cassette tape release to the excitement of Saturday morning cartoons, Gen X cherishes the tangible and communal aspects of their upbringing.

1. The Wild World of Brick-and-Mortar Rentals

Rent
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

No streaming services here! Gen X spent weekends browsing video stores, hunting for hidden gems amidst aisles of VHS tapes. Picking the perfect movie felt like an adventure, and hoping your favorite wasn’t already rented out added a dash of suspense.

2. Mixtape

Stack of VHS Tapes
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Forget playlists. Curating a mixtape was an art form. Each song choice held meaning, a message for a crush, or a soundtrack to a specific mood. The anticipation of hitting “play” and waiting for your chosen order to unfold was pure magic.

3. The Hunt

The Hunt
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Can you recall the joy of finding a rare trading card or the perfect outfit hidden in a thrift store? Gen X thrived on the thrill of the hunt. The satisfaction of scoring a bargain or that unexpected treasure was unmatched by a simple click on a shopping app.

4. Radio

radio
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Radio DJs were the influencers of their day. Tuning into your favorite station felt like hanging out with friends. Live music, goofy contests, and hilarious hosts kept you company on long car rides or late-night homework sessions.

5. The Unstructured Adventure

building forts in the woods
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Helicopter parents? Not so much. Gen X roamed free, exploring their neighborhoods on bikes, building forts in the woods, and getting dirty without constant adult supervision. It fostered independence, creativity, and a healthy dose of scraped knees.

6. The Art of Conversation

Matured old man with co workers
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

With no texting or instant messaging, Gen X honed their face-to-face communication skills. They learned to read body language, have deep conversations, and navigate social situations without the crutch of a screen.

7. The Joy of Delayed Gratification

Old man operating smart tv
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Consider the weeks or months it takes to get your favorite show’s next episode or a new album out. Gen X had to cultivate patience. The anticipation built excitement, making the payoff when the wait was over all the sweeter.

8. The Power of Your Imagination

The "Can I Afford It?" Rule
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Without the constant stimulation of screens, Gen X kids had to use their imaginations more. They turned cardboard boxes into spaceships, sticks into swords, and empty lots into sprawling fantasy worlds. It fostered creativity and problem-solving skills that come in handy even today.

9. The Library Labyrinth

Library Adventures Over New Book Buys
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Forget algorithms and curated feeds. Gen X spent afternoons wandering the labyrinthine shelves of libraries, unearthing hidden gems and getting lost in the sheer volume of knowledge. The musty scent of old books and the crinkle of turning pages created a unique atmosphere that sparked a lifelong love of reading.

10. The Clickety-Clack of Typewriters

Typewriters
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Before spellcheck and instant edits, crafting a perfect essay meant meticulous planning and careful typing. The rhythmic clickety-clack of a typewriter key resonated with the focus and concentration required to get thoughts onto paper. It fostered a respect for the written word and the finality of each keystroke.

11. Board Games

Board Games
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Friday night entertainment wasn’t a lonely scroll through social media. Gen X families gathered around the table for epic board game battles. The shouts of triumph over a lucky roll of the dice or the groans of defeat after a strategic blunder created lasting memories and a sense of family bonding.

12. The Payphone Challenge

Payphone
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Without the ability to check your phone every five minutes, picture a different world. Gen X relied on payphones, those coin-operated relics of the past. The bygone era of payphones meant scrambling for change, rushing to squeeze in your call before the coins ran out, and always being on edge that someone else might need the line. 

13. Handmade Cards

Handmade Cards
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In a world of instant digital greetings, Gen X appreciated the time and effort poured into a handmade card. The carefully chosen construction paper, the glitter and glue, and the heartfelt message scrawled inside held a personal touch that no impersonal emoji could ever replicate.

14. The Collections

Pokemon cards
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How about those shelves overflowing with Beanie Babies or Pokemon cards? Gen X built collections that reflected their passions. The thrill of the hunt, the pride in a complete set, and the endless hours spent organizing and trading these prized possessions fostered a sense of community and fueled imaginations.

15. The Backyard Campout

Backyard Campout
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Forget glamping with fancy gear. Gen X camped under the stars with a simple tent, a crackling campfire, and a symphony of crickets chirping. Gazing at the Milky Way, sharing ghost stories, and roasting marshmallows under the vast night sky created a connection with nature and a sense of adventure that’s hard to replicate today.

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