We are all lost. And we are all fucking terrified.
[I like to make a dramatic entrance]
This is a post that I have been wanting to write for some time; it stems from pretty much every in depth conversation that I have with a fellow twenty-something nowadays.
‘The lost generation’ was a term (if we are to believe the factual correctness of Wikipedia) coined by Gertrude Stein but popularised by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. It was, and still is, used to characterise the generation that came of age during World War One.
“Lost means not vanished but disoriented, wandering, directionless”
I’m not exactly certain as to the definition of ‘coming of age’ but I am of the personal opinion (and most of my personal opinions are right . . . in my personal opinion) that in this society it’s generally the state of leaving education and entering the real world or, as I like to call it, becoming a grown up. And I would argue that every generation that is ‘coming of age’ is a lost generation.
“disoriented, wandering, directionless”
Sound familiar to my fellow twenty-somethings?
Disoriented – as we’ve left our respective educational establishments and are thrown into the world of professional establishments. Wandering – as we travel the world to put off our professional futures, as we bide our time in our jobs working out whether this is what we want for our future. Directionless – as we try to decide where we want to go, what we want to do, who we want to be.
We, the twenty-somethings, are in limbo. We are between childhood and adulthood. We are supposed to be working towards the ultimate goal of stability, career, mortgage, marriage, children. But we are in no way ready for it. We want to grow up and go for sophisticated cocktails and go to sleep in our own homes that we pay the rent on but we don’t want to let go of our care free past. The one where we could sit in our onesies and watch 10 episodes of House of Cards on Netflix in a day and not feel too guilty. Where we could get up at 12pm on a Wednesday because what is a job? Where we could go out on a Sunday night because what is a Monday?
We’ve always had a direction: work hard to get your GCSEs because you won’t get a job without them (what kind of bullshit is that anyway?!), work hard to get your A Levels to go to uni as you need uni for your future, work hard to get your degree because you need a degree to have any chance of a job in your future. Well all of a sudden that future that we’ve spent our whole lives working towards, it starts now. In fact, it’s already started. And that feeling is suffocating.
Suddenly we sympathise with this guy:
If there is one thing I’ve learnt since I left uni it’s that being 22 is hard. And being 21 was hard. And I don’t have much hope for 23 being easy. It is a confusing and tumultous time. But the other thing I have learnt is that everyone feels this way . . . and it’s okay.
We are suffocated by the daunting prospect of our uncertain futures.
We don’t know what we want. But we want to be. Although we are not sure what, or who.
We are so terrified that we won’t be happy in the future that we aren’t happy in the now.
We are told by History that we are of a generation that changes the world. I can’t even change a fucking light bulb, how am I going to change the world?
We are reminded that we are the future. But what is our future?
We are trying to define ourselves. Attempting to understand and establish what our role in the world will be.
We spend a lot of time feeling inadequate because we don’t feel as though we are where we wanted to be. But then again, we are unsure of what our goals are. 5 year plan? I don’t even have a plan for the next 5 days.
But, we are all in the same confusing position.
Trust me, even the ones that look like they have got their shit together. They too are carrying out that internal monologue. ‘Yes I’m so lucky to be on a grad scheme at KPMG, but look at the pictures Jerry keeps posting on Facebook of his travelling around South East Asia. He looks really happy, am I happy? Is this what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. Maybe I should just take up a masters, and then maybe I can go travelling, and then maybe I can get a proper grown up job. Or maybe I should go to Africa and fight ebola. I mean I have no medical skills, but maybe it’s not too late. Maybe I should just quit KPMG and go back to uni to study medicine.’
If you are anything like me, you’ll find that sometimes you feel like “yeah, this is going well. I think I’ve got the hang of this whole life thing”. And then at other times you won’t be able to sleep at night because you are so daunted and confused by the prospect of your uncertain future and you’ve got one question that rolls through your mind continuously. Which, in my case, is: ‘How can I use my (extremely limited) talents to improve the world?’
Just take a step back. Take each moment as it comes and try not to think too much about the future. You will never be able to know where you will be in 5 years time so don’t worry that you don’t have a 5 year plan, because you can’t predict the future and guaranteed something would come along that would fuck that shit up anyway.
So have a little read of this Douglas Adams quote -
“I may not have gone where I intended to go but I think I have ended up where I needed to be”
And just remember that we are all lost. And we are all fucking terrified. But there is solace in the we.