When I was seventeen, my Literature class studied the most memorable standalone novel I’ve ever read, Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’. I don’t know what aspect of this Nobel Prize Winner’s prolific work resonated most with you — perhaps the intense bull fighting, the casual alcoholism, or those blunt, impoverished sentences. I don’t know. But forever etched in my mind is the sad emptiness that reverberated throughout those 260 pages. Our Lit. teacher at the time neatly folded this emptiness into the literary context of theme for examination purposes. He called it ‘The Lost Generation’.
Now I said memorable, but please don’t misunderstand me, this is by no means my favourite read. But there’s no denying that some ten+ years later, I can’t forget how that book made me feel. Reading that novel reminded me of my early days falling in love with the written word. In the security of my bedroom, I’d managed to experience the tension of the mystery in Nancy Drew, the thrill of the adventure in Enid Blyton and the complexity of the relationship drama in the likes of the Babysitter’s Club and Mary-Kate and Ashley. And when I finally encountered The Sun Also Rises, I experienced the full drag of listlessness and eternal weight of emptiness these characters felt. The way Hemingway was able to capture the essence of an entire generation and release it in just one volume was awe-inspiring.
Since then, the creative writer in me has always pondered what would be said of my generation.
I wondered what ‘art’ would be found in our existence without the rich content of widespread war, slavery or debauchery that historically fed the classics. What would the theme of our lives be? How would our book ‘feel’?
Indeed, I’ve experienced the answer myself. Most days I feel it, and in conversations with my contemporaries, I can always taste it:
Hunger. We are hungry.
We’ve come up hearing the tales of how the world ‘progressed’ from savagery to civilization; from poverty to riches; from God-fearing to self-empowered, and it has all left our mouths watering for something more. We aren’t like Jake or Cohn who passively tried to drink their emptiness away or run from place to place to escape their lack of purpose; oh no, we are aggressively chasing down our purpose in this world. We are a generation of place-seekers and dream chasers, and we are hungry.
Tell me, what do you do when what you’re eating isn’t sustaining you? Think about it. That’s why job turnover and relationship mortality rates among Millennials are so high —
we only want what’s feeding us mentally, spiritually, emotionally and financially.
More importantly, we believe we can get it. And I wouldn’t be too quick to ascribe hopefulness to our generation, because I don’t think that’s what’s fuelling us. If anything, it’s the sense of duty the eldest sibling feels when her mother’s dead and her father’s never home. The past generations have failed us with the economy, the environment and religion, and we know it’s up to us to bring home the bacon if we ever want to eat. And we are hungry.
So look out for us. But be sure, our revolution won’t come on a chilly night in October after months of planning in underground tunnels. Our fight is every day, against every force that threatens our dreams of a better future. So when you see us on the streets or in meeting rooms with passion in our eyes and a growl in our stomachs… you know why.