A Quarter-Life in Retrospect (or ‘Is Mine The Indignado Generation?’)

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Eleven months ago, I turned 25. The notion of that milestone had mildly disturbed me during the run up to my birthday. 25 seemed like such an adult number, the last chance to sit on the fence before being pushed off into the latter half of my twenties. Somehow, the implications of that gave me pause for thought. I wrote:

Truth is, I’m at a stage in my life where I’m still quite happy to -learn- things. Sure, I’ve achieved a fair amount of stuff during my time on this planet so far, but there’s so much more to do. I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing. And I’m not the only one who thinks this way. So many of my friends are still trying to figure out exactly what their calling is. And that’s okay – we get by. We see things and try things and figure out what suits us.

Looking back, it is quite clear to me that despite being nervous about the whole thing, I was remarkably positive about my transition from post-teenager into fully fledged young adult. And why wouldn’t I be? A year ago, I was in Dublin, finishing my Masters degree in Digital Media, a subject I was (and still am) passionate about. I had an exciting project to work on for my thesis, I was getting As in my modules, and I was being assured by my tutors that with my academic record, my mind and my experience, I would be able to get a job anywhere I wanted. Anywhere would be lucky to have me, they said.

So, degree in hand, I marched off to London, one of Europe’s digital hubs, and proceeded to spend the next six months unemployed, spiralling into a confused depression. At one point, I was sending an average of 10 job applications every day – I had made job-hunting my full-time job – and I still wasn’t getting any response. Sure, I got a few interviews, some even went so far as to invite me for a second and third interview, but it seemed there was always somebody more experienced, older, asking for less money, less foreign (you begin to truly wonder whether this is an issue). In the end, I was offered an internship with a small magazine. One person believed in my potential and I hope that in the few months I worked for him I proved my worth and my eagerness to work.

But you can imagine how soul-suckingly depressing it is to send application after application. You probably don’t need to imagine it. In all probability, you or somebody close to you is experiencing exactly the same phenomenon. And it makes me livid, because I have worked hard my entire life to get to this stage. I have declined invitations to parties and I have missed trips abroad and I have stayed in just so I could study, because a B was never quite good enough for me. I had to excel. So I have more than done my part. I have more than upheld my end of the bargain. So when’s it the world’s turn to give back? When do I get to sit down and reap the benefits of my almost 20 years of intensive schooling?

At a wedding recently, I met a friend of mine who is my age and who has returned to Malta after finishing his own Masters degree. “How are you?” I asked, politely. “Oh, you know,” he scoffed; “Swiftly joining the ranks of the indignados.” He was angry. And it was the same anger that’s been bubbling up and giving me stomach ulcers for nigh on a year now.

“I don’t understand,” he said; “All our lives we were told to study and excel. We were promised by our elders that if we applied ourselves we could be anything we wanted to be. And we believed them. And now here we are and there is nothing for us: no jobs, no futures.”

And I realise now that almost every single person my age I know is living through exactly the same thing. We’re all floating around a little aimlessly feeling like something is seriously wrong with the world and that we are not getting what we were promised as children and adolescents. A remarkable percentage of my friends have actually gone back to university a second or third time, some even changing their career track. Collecting degrees. Simply because university is the last place we felt positive about anything at all. So what is it? Have you, Generation X, been lying to us? Or have you fucked up the world and left a legacy of recession, unemployment, hunger, apathy and ennui? It’s just as well you have enough money to support us now, because none of us can see much of a way out of this one.

What are we supposed to do? Why is it that in America, 5 per cent of janitors have PhDs? Why is student suicide on the rise? Why do we have to clean up the messes of the greedy ones who came before us? And what are we supposed to tell OUR children? “You CANNOT be anything you want to be. But if you study hard enough, you can be a janitor?” What do we have to do to change this situation? Get angry? Protest? Write the next Great American Novel? Take drugs and make breakthrough music like they did after Vietnam?

I, like so many more my age, am at a complete loss. I don’t know how I am going to get out of this one except to keep applying for jobs and hoping that something in my CV will stand out to somebody who will give me a chance, and who I can then prove myself to. Until then, I will carry on writing about this condition and its implications. I refuse to give up on my dreams simply because everybody else has dreams. When the world cannot accommodate everyone’s dreams, when there are people struggling to feed their children while others get paycheques so big they have no idea what to do with all the money, then something MUST be wrong with the world. I can’t be the only one who thinks this, can I?

1 Comment
  • lara
    May 30, 2013

    Great post. I wish i had some answers, but i’m 34 and still angry at the world I live in! I think in Malta we look out and see the “world of opportunities” but remember.. we are living in a world controlled by bankers, rather than governments. We are taught to dream but then taught to “be realistic”. You can be anything as long as it sticks to what the banks are willing to put money into.. mainly more fucking banking. We are the generation brought up by the people who were our age in the 80’s… a time where they REALLY had anything on a silver plate as it was all new and fresh.

    Saying that, where there’s a door closed you might find a window, and even though it might take longer, I’m sure that you will find something you enjoy. Also I have a belief that the “problem” is that they open up uni courses to wayyyy more people than the industries can sustain… giving people false hopes.

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