The Return of the Lost Generation
You may have heard the term "The Lost Generation," made famous by a group of writers in the early 20th century. Its members were most notably Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, who, some say, coined the phrase. This generation comprised the young men and woman who had returned from the carnage of World War I and met the new challenge of domestic life in the '20s and '30s.
This generation was noted for its restlessness, lack of direction, and great confusion. A theme that filled Lost Generation literature of the time was the frivolous wealth of the upper crust. This generation was unable to settle down, coming home to a nation that had long since filled the places of employment they ahad worked at and did not understand the challenges they faced.
While the Lost Generation has been romanticized by the novels and short stories that came out of it, it was truly anything but romantic.
Fast-forward a few generations, and we see a similar phenomenon. The generation now known as "Millennials" has been called many things: lazy, aimless, unwilling to settle down, and lacking direction. Sound familiar?
I am what many consider an older Millennial, in that I am just now entering my thirties. I see a lot of parallels between the Lost Generation of the 20th century and my own Millennial generation. While the original Lost Generation was a product of a war unlike any other and then an economic crash, the members of the "new" Lost Generation are slightly different. We all awoke to a new world on September 11, 2001, a world of war and terrorism, that gave birth to unease and fear that we had not seen before. Seven years later came the crash of 2008. With the fall of the housing market and the economy at large came new rules for the future of education and job prospects. Gone was the assurance of a good job after university, and gone was the idea of a stable 9-5 job that one could stay at until retirement.
Many Millennials like me were forced to become creative in order to gain the future that many of us would like. This creativity was (and still is) needed to get experience for jobs that suddenly were not as easy to get as previous years. Full-time jobs began to vanish, wages plummeted, and university tuition spiked as jobs began requiring degrees for positions that previously required no such thing.
For the first time, my generation will be poorer than our parents. With no promise of a comfortable retirement, many Millennials are taking trips, backpacking, trying to get the most out of life. They know that life won't be getting easier or better in the years to come.
Looking back, one can see that despite a hard life and a difficult transition to the new way of life, including PTSD, unemployment, and a swiftly changing economy and job market, a burst of creative output sprang forth from the original Lost Generation. Looking around now, I can see this in my own generation. Thanks to the birth and integration of the internet into everyday life, Millennials are writing novels, creating music, authoring articles on everything from the tech field to marketing, and creating new business experiences for themselves. Millennials are jumping from job experience to job experience, gathering as much knowledge as they can to get a better wage at the next, all the while producing books and freelancing nights and weekends to bring in extra cash.
For Millennials, the future is not rosy. In fact, the news keeps saying how much worse it may get. Many think Millennials like me are irresponsible and don't want what our parents had. (For some, this is true.) Part of me wants that house on the cul-de-sac with the white picket fence. Deep inside, I know that it will likely never happen. Those days have moved on.
I and the other members of this new lost generation are still feeling our way out of the darkness and trying to find our place in the new world. It's dark and depressing sometimes, but as I sit at my local corner café and write this article I hope that maybe, in the future, people will look back and see Millennials (the hardworking ones, at least) as a generation handed a bum deal, a dark new world with no rules, but a generation who pushed ahead and, despite all the odds, was able to carve out a piece of the world – much as the contemporaries of Hemingway did.
Byron Lafayette is a journalist and author who writes on the film industry for Fansided and serves as editor in chief for Viralhare.com.