Uncertainties of a Lost Generation

I’ve used this blog for a few different reasons since its inception: to share stories, historical research, or my own writing experiences. But today I write for a much different purpose. Today, I feel the strong desire to express my pain for the predicament of the unemployed people in the U.S. today, particularly my own generation.

Personally I try to stay away from politics, and I hate complaining. I try to always keep in mind that there are people in much worse predicaments than mine. I am lucky in many respects, including the fact that I currently have a job in addition to my writing occupation. My pain is real, however, along with the distress of many people in my situation or a similar one, and I can’t go on pretending like it doesn’t exist. My pain comes from belonging to a lost generation: a huge pool of young adults who are unemployed or working jobs for which they are vastly over-qualified, who have grown up acutely aware of the impending dangers of global warming, and who have generally lost faith in the future.

I am not using large surveys or statistics to come to this conclusion. This is no scientific determination, but a reaction to personal observation, which by nature is limited. I have seen the studies, and though they support my conclusion, I don’t think statistics address the significance of my generation’s predicament. I know what I have seen. I have seen myself nearly accomplish my dreams only to, in a moment of pause, find myself scrambling down the deadly slope of unemployment. I, for one, might have avoided my situation if I had made different decisions. Whatever the case, I went from working on a primetime TV show to facing months, and months, and months of soul-crushing unemployment. I felt as if I watched my BFA go swirling down the drain. And after a year of sending resumes out into the void and wondering what on earth had happened to my life, I was grateful just to get a job selling soap in a mall for about 15 hours a week.

I have watched similar situations befall my friends and dearest loved ones. No matter how hard they work or how much talent they possess, they cannot get a job in the field of their choice, or they can not even get a job at all. We were all raised with the belief that hard work and education means something in this life. We have been told, and we have acted as if, hard work will actually bring rewards. But experience is teaching us otherwise. Many of us grow increasingly convinced that we would be better off losing our ambitions, for which we’re only punished, and channeling our passion and energy into something that will undoubtedly reward us: something like video games.

I don’t mean to speak of video games in a derogatory fashion. I respect video games greatly and I see their current popularity as a strong indication that the intelligence of young adults is burning to utilitze itself, and since we cannot engage our mental energy into our jobs, we channel it into video games instead. Games give us a sense of involvement and accomplishment that we simply can’t find elsewhere, and that goes for people outside my own age group as well.

While I recognize that my own age group (mid-20s) is not the only one currently facing this problem, I feel that I need to bring us into the spotlight because I suspect our country’s ongoing recession will cripple us more harshly than anyone else. Think about it for a moment. Older workers are being laid off and facing unemployment as well. But when they apply to a job, at least they have those years of previous experience on their resume. They’re competing directly with the people fresh out of college who are desperate to land an entry level position. The experienced workers will probably get that job. Meanwhile, the unemployed youth remain at home and continue to rack up more years of *no* experience. After that, when/if this recession goes away and the companies now want fresh workers, who will look more appealing? The hopeful youths that have recently graduated? Or the discouraged souls with a large empty gap on their resume?

I am a secretary at a community college while possessing a BFA from one of the most renowned cinema schools in the world. I am also an active novelist. But I sit at a desk all day and make coffee, arrange files, order supplies, or get people’s phones to function. All of those tasks–except for the making coffee, perhaps–are tasks I downright loathe. But compared to most people, I am lucky to be here. Meanwhile, I am the youngest secretary I know of in the college. Most of them are women between 50 and 80 years old. My co-worker is 78. Since I first started working here two years ago, I have been laid off twice because I did not have “seniority.” I am lucky that I managed to hang on to a job due to the contacts I had established by then.

All of that said, I don’t wish to reduce our hope even further by making this post. For those of you in this position, I want you to take comfort in the fact you are not alone, and your situation is not a reflection of your own talents and abilities. I also want people who have been securely employed for a long while to be aware of this crisis. And finally, I want to impart upon anyone seeking it a small shred of wisdom that a few years of hardship have imparted upon me.

We’ve all heard the saying before, but we need now to take it to heart: enjoy each day for what it gives you, rather than focusing on what it doesn’t. As intolerable and empty as the long days at home may seem, try to embrace the freedom they give you to dive into whatever project your heart desires. Recognize that to keep up your own spirits is the best thing you can do for yourself and any future career. Keep sending out resumes when you can, but when you’re done with that, play your video games. Spend time with your family and pets–something you will not be able to do so much once you have a job. Exercise regularly. Pursue health and happiness as goals in and of themselves, for those are goals you can maintain control of, if you don’t let the world wrest them from you.

My heart goes out to all of you. And just remember, when you feel like there is no one out there who will understand your predicament, that you are not alone in this hardship.

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Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 1:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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