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Today is "The Breakfast Club" Day

In 1985, a teen drama hit theaters, becoming a defining anthem for the forgotten generation sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millenials. Starring a group of actors called the "Brat Pack," this movie, set on March 24, 1984, at Shermer High School in Shermer, IL, shouted into the void that the teenagers of Generation X were much more than lazy, latchkey slackers. These kids would later grow up in a world where their societal impact reverberates.

Today, we celebrate the 40th "The Breakfast Club" Day.

This isn't a movie review. By now, most of us have watched this movie. While some in the younger generation might find it silly or offensive, it offers a time capsule into what the world was like for many of us in our generation. Probably more than ever, we were defined by teen status based on our looks, interests, socio-economic backgrounds, the extracurricular activities we participated in, and perhaps most of all, how adults looked at us.

Despite the constant pressure we faced to stay in our tribes, when forced into a holding pen, such as Saturday detention in the movie, we learned that we weren't so different from one another. Take the opening and closing monologue from the film, where Brian (played by the great Anthony Michael Hall) writes an essay for Mr. Vernon, the jaded Vice-Principle of the fictitious Shermer High School in the Chicago suburbs:

Brian recognized his essay would have a lasting impact.
Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal… Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

At the time of this movie, that didn't impact me much, considering that I was 13 at the time. It wasn't until nearly a decade later, when I was in the Air Force, I realized how impactful this was.

Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, the things that divided us were very much at play. Like the students at the movie's beginning, we stuck to "our kind." Growing up in Texas, these divisions included race, income, interests, taste in music, fashion, etc. I was better insulated from these things, having grown up in a town that had decent diversity and from being in athletics, especially playing football. I would be lying if I said it didn't exist. I'll go as far as to say almost everyone I know growing up exhibited these traits.

But this movie planted a seed that started to change us. We were now sneaking through the halls as one, looking to score weed from the lockers, trying not to get caught by our version of Mr. Verson, which was those in charge of our society. By the time the 1990s rolled around, these things that separated us did not matter much. Sure, there were additional forces at play that aided this growth, such as becoming an adult and joining the military, but at my core, I knew I was different. I was no longer just "white" or "an athlete" or whatever label most suitable for the occasion. I was being redefined with an entire generation that was starting to unify.

This isn't to say we didn't have growing pains or that all our issues have been resolved among ourselves. What I will say is that I firmly believe that my generation is more united than the generation before us and the two generations that follow us. We are more accepting of our differences. Instead of trying to push monolithic conformity under the false harmony of "diversity and inclusion," we are more of a melting pot stew flavored by the spices of our variety. Ultimately, we worked out a lot of our shit and continue to work out things that haven't been resolved.

I had the honor of being on my high school's 20-year reunion planning committee, and I will be working towards planning our 35th reunion for 2025 (COVID robbed us of our 30th reunion.) As time has progressed, I realize that while I may go years between seeing them, I feel a deeper and more loving connection with my classmates. At the movie's end, the students emerge from Saturday's detention transformed, connected in a newfound unity that transcends their different backgrounds. I feel this way with my former classmates and my generation, a better version of myself than when I was growing up.

This weekend, if you have some free time, I encourage you to take a little more than an hour and a half to rewatch this movie (or watch it for the first time if you have never seen it.) I ask you to set aside recency bias towards how the teens act and why they are in detention. Instead, focus on looking outward and realizing that no matter how different we are, we can move past differences and extend love for one another.

For your added viewing and listening pleasure, you'll get to hear this song and understand why its popularity still exists nearly 40 years later.

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