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Lost in Spades

Fri, Jan 18th, 2013
Posted in All Commentary

It’s probably been long enough that most of you have managed to betray the promises made at the year’s beginning: exercise equipment has started collecting dust, you’ve sheepishly hit the drive-thru again, maybe that pack of smokes was just too tempting. Allow me, instead, to give you a new idea for your 2013. It’s easier than an exercise regimen, less tempting than the odd cheeseburger or creepy/delicious processed rib sandwich, and nowhere near as dangerous as smoking.

The only problem is that it involves being nice to twentysomethings.

I know, I know… I can see you roll your eyes even as I say this. Twentysomethings have become like holey old socks in the past six years or so, laying about the house and often having no visible purpose. Layabouts, nogoodniks, wanting something for nothing and spending too much time occupying parks or trying to get things legalized to go out and get a respectable job. I’ll be the first one to stand up and admonish my generation for its faults (and I have several times in the past for those that know me) but as the new year dawns and we pull ourselves out of Mayan hysteria, I’m looking to start over with some fresh perspective.

We’re looking at a generation adrift, the likes of which have not been seen since the days after the Great War almost one hundred years ago, and youth unemployment is at its highest since World War II. All of the promises of jobs and careers were swept away in the recession, leaving twentysomethings to scramble for minimum-wage jobs or temporary work just to make sure they can pay back their tens of thousands in college debt. The birth rates are dropping as increasingly more young people put off the joys of family because, financially, it is an impossibility, and every penny is necessary for survival. The American Dream of our parents and grandparents is now truly that: ephemeral and out of touch.

Two of the biggest hit songs of the past year were titled “Die Young” and “Live While We’re Young,” respectively. This generation, “Millenials,” as they are beginning to be called, are becoming more fatalistic and less enchanted with a world that once held such opportunity for them. The phrase “Lost Generation” is getting bandied about more and more, which is shocking considering the plush 1990s in which we grew up. As one who went through this period and saw it first-hand, I can say to you unequivocally that we were promised the moon and stars as far as careers, education, and prosperity were concerned. On top of that, we were one of the first generations raised with the maxims of everyone being special and the old joke of “everyone gets a trophy.” When you contrast that with the harshest of realities we have endured since late 2007, it creates a recipe for disaster.

To that end, I feel I must call attention to something, and I am not pleased to do so. Over the past year, there have been several billboard incidences of violent outbursts and maniacal acts of what can only be described as domestic terrorism from Colorado to Connecticut. Nearly every single one, particularly those that have been the most ghoulishly popular, have been perpetrated by twentysomething males. One can only guess at their motives, or their mental abilities at the time of the incident, but that one common thread seems to link them together. Something is not good here, and without intervention things will only continue to get worse. This has been the rudest of awakenings to a generation that has never really been confronted before, and often lacks the skills to cope with failure.

So, in this new year, I’m asking one little concession to my generation of Millenials from you. If you see us, maybe at work where we mop the floors, maybe at home because we were forced to move back in, maybe on the street where we have what Shakespeare described as a “lean and hungry look,” take a moment to genuinely ask how we are. Make it feel like someone cares. You don’t have to praise us disproportionately, or give us anything of monetary value, or otherwise help us along. Just a simple and real question of “how are things?” can go a long way in stemming the tide of anger and frustration that is boiling beneath the surface of this generation. Just to soothe the wounded soul of the Millenials, that compassion may be the saving grace that ensures this generation won’t be completely lost. It’s a little thing, and it’s easy to do, so why not make 2013 the year we start watching out for each other?

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