Lost generation


Have you seen this article?

If you haven’t, please allow me to summarize. If you are currently in your twenties there is a 55% chance that you are unemployed. The fact that you are currently unemployed is likely to impact your future earning potential. When the economy does recover, you should expect to compete with recent college graduates for entry level jobs. You will never be as successful as your parents. You are part of a lost generation.

Depressed yet?

By way of a rebuttal, I would like to offer the following. 

1) I choose to think better of potential employers. There is a significant maturity gap between recent college grads and those of us who have been out a few years. Not to mention the fact that working at Starbucks or Anthropologie can give you great experience in customer service and (for many college grads) management. I would also like to point out that many of the people I know who haven’t been able to find full-time employment in their chosen field are volunteering or interning at organizations they are interested in working for. And I have to believe that will count for something. Eventually.

2) It’s time to redefine success. Many of our parents are in their 50s and 60s. And while I hesitate to suggest that life was any less complicated back then, I think there was a much clearer expectation of what you were supposed to be doing at our age. When you are in your twenties you were supposed to get a full time job and get married.  Then you were supposed to buy a house and start a family. You were supposed to do all these things because it meant you were successful.

Flash forward thirty years. Many of my friends are not in serious relationships, let alone engaged. Most do not own homes or fancy cars. Instead they have spent their twenties earning graduate degrees, travelling the world, doing admirable volunteer work (Teach for America, Peace Corps, etc.), and leading generally interesting (and succesful!) lives. What all that means is that success might look like something very different for our generation than it did for our parents. And that is absolutely okay.

3) “Lost generation” is a subjective term. What does it really mean to be lost? The people analyzing this data from the United States Census Bureau seem to suggest that if people our age aren’t able to access the traditional trappings of the American dream (which requires financial stability) we will exist on the outskirts of mainstream society.

So what?

Let’s take the example of another “lost generation” – people who were in their twenties and early thirties right after World War One.  Horrified by war and intoxicated by peace, they scandalized their parents by spending most of the 1920s in a martini-induced haze. They dance the Charleston, traveled the world, and gathered in Paris salons to discuss literature and art. They were the original Bohemians. Young and (mostly) broke, they ended up being some of the most significant artists and authors of the century: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso…the list goes on.

My point here is this: living with less can be miserable. It can also give you permission to get creative and do what you love. Glass half full, right?

xx/ellen louise


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