“Just throw your head back, and spit in the wind
Let the walls crack, ’cause it lets the light in
Let ’em drag you through hell
They can’t tell you to change who you are
And when the storm’s out, you run in the rain
Put your sword down, dive right into the pain
Stay unfiltered and loud, you’ll be proud of that skin full of scars
That’s All I know So Far”- Pink
I have a lot of scar tissue, both internal and external, that I share quite openly and authentically these days. And I always find it interesting who engages with it, who ignores it, and who runs away entirely.
Like many of my fellow Gen-Xers (like Pink) I was not raised that way. I was taught to just sort of keep on keeping on. We were the kids of the “silent generation” who were born into the scarcity and economic fall-out of the Great Depression, survived World War II, saw RFK, MLK and JFK get shot firsthand, knew the fear of The Bomb, went to Korea, or Vietnam (or protested them) and listened to or watched the first lunar landing.
So, I was raised with a sense of silent and stoic self-discipline. Pain and complaints were never vocalized, and respect for elders was put first along with humility, hard work, heavily internalized mental stress, and never ever crying in public.
I was reminded of this this past week for 2 reasons:
1. Mikhail Gorbachev (the Ultimate Silent Generation leader) passed away.
2. The Daily podcast spent an episode exploring the explosion in teen (Gen Z) mental health challenges like cutting, PTSD, loneliness, anxiety, depression and other “newly discovered” issues that have arisen due to Covid.
And I had to laugh, sort of, that mine was the experimental, transitional generation that grew up with no vocalized emotional parental support but knew that our children needed it from us in order to speak their own minds with clarity and certainty. Because we were never allowed to.
As the “Middle Child (or Gap) Generation”, we were often overlooked, and so had to figure it out for ourselves. Because full-analogue suddenly went full-digital while we were in college and parental divorce was our generalized childhood norm. It’s also because fighting AIDS, gender, sexual, and racial stereotypes, global hunger, the War on Drugs, Climate Change, and nuclear proliferation marked our wildly innovative and emotive musical soundtrack.
There were no rules, so we had to write and voice our own while all the “certainty” of the past changed around us.
And we have the true and authentic trial and error scars to prove it. Especially for those of us who are women. Whether we were weathering the first dot.com bubble bursting and early career lay-offs, surviving an unprecedented number of young cancer and stroke diagnoses, trying out entrepreneurship since the glass ceiling had remained oppressively low and hard or understanding that marriage was not the be-all and end-all of life. We’ve made our lives and careers a solo venture. And it has hurt like hell.
But we have embraced the scars and stories that have brought us here. Breaking the rules of beauty, voicelessness, and playing safe. Because our scars are true and authentic to who we are. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Holly Lynch is a 20+ year ESG and DEI communications veteran, board member, strategist and investor who has helped individuals and companies tackle the toughest challenges, transitions and transformations in their worlds. Having survived countless life setbacks and two rounds with terminal cancer, while seeing the country-wide collapse of the systems and safety nets for the most vulnerable in and outside our communities, she is now shifting her life and career trajectories to focus on coaching and consulting with those facing down fundamental shifts and transitions as they try to adapt to change while rebuilding their lives and businesses during these unprecedented times.