Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The new lost generation?

I was reading an interesting article today about the slow (very slow) maturation of the "Generation Y". While the generational definitions are rather fluid, and I guess I would fall somewhere in between Gen X and Gen Y, I think that my allegiance (and outlook on life) would fall more in line with Gen Y.
Looking around me, I see an army of unmarried and often unemployed (or sporadically employed) mid- to late- 20 somethings (or very early 30 somethings) that really are a new sort of Lost Generation. We're not lost in the way that Hemingway, Stein, Pound and Fitzgerald were lost. Their malaise was caused by a global shift in power caused by the sudden onset of WWI, and a shifting power dynamic in Europe caused by it, along with the rise of American military and economy might that crashed suddenly, and then rebounded for the next fifty years.
No, our malaise is caused by something very different. Unlike our predecessors inGen X, and especially in the Baby Boomer generation, we're learning from the mistakes of our parents and grandparents, and it's causing some major unrest. We're not uncomfortable with the idea of a career, but we're uncomfortable with working the same mundane job that we don't necessarily like for the rest of our lives just to support ourselves and a family, and in hopes that one day we can retire and enjoy the fruits our long and unfulfilling labor. We're not uncomfortable with the idea of marriage, but we don't want to jump into anything that isn't going to make us happy in the long run just to live a "normal" life and make our parents and grandparents happy; especially since we've seen divorce rates skyrocket in the last 40 years, and the misery that we as a generation have sustained as children of these divorces. We're not uncomfortable with the idea of having children, but we've learned that children will completely change your life; most likely in a good way, but it will be completely changed nonetheless. Maybe it's selfishness that causes us to have children later, or maybe we want to focus on our careers (or finding one, because as I stated before we're having trouble figuring out what we want to do with our lives), but either way, we're finding that children are a better option once we're "ready" (whatever that means).
Another defining characteristic of the Y Generation is our penchant for asking 'why'? Why do I need to get married right now? Why do I need to have kids right now? Why do I need to find a career right now? Why do I need to make my bed? Why do I need to take out the garbage? These small, inconsequential questions are simply a proxy for the greater existential issues that we're facing as a generation to figure out what we want and what we're all about. We spend our time fighting for causes, or endlessly going to college, or endlessly pursuing sex in an attempt to find out where our passions lie. But, while we wait for the 'BAM' moment, when all of the sudden our lives make sense to us, we're slowly letting more and more sand slip out of the hourglass. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we're wasting our lives, I'm just saying that our lives have a different structure and focus than those of the generations before us*.
I look around me, and I have many friends who are now married. I have friends who are now having kids (CONGRATULATIONS, I'm very happy for you guys!). I have friends who are well established in their careers, and are "moving on up", or continuing to pursue higher and higher avenues for success. But I also look around me and see many others that staid. Working this job or that, or not at all, and basically just floundering waiting for a big ah-hah to finally send them on their journey. Life is happening right now, and we need to take full advantage while we've got it.

*The Baby Boomer generation shook things up for a brief period in the 60s and 70s, and made a major cultural and social impact on the fabric of our country. However, their generational mind shift was temporary, and though they may have rejected the 'ticky-tacky' existence of their parents, they were quite content moving to the suburbs and getting corporate jobs in the 1980s. They might still vote Democrat (or maybe not), and they volunteer at the homeless shelter, protest the Iraq war, and give money to the Sierra Club, but their revolutionary spirit died out as the 70s sputtered on, and was completely severed when Ronald Reagan was elected president, and coincidentally their kids were born starting in 1980.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

this post is dead on. thanks for sharing.