Opinion: 'This pandemic has left an entire generation stuck in limbo'

With a recession looming and life as we knew it changed, will this pandemic lead to another lost generation?


This will be the lost year.

A year when days blended, weeks fused and months merged. We heard of restrictions and phases, lockdowns and quarantines. Lives were lost. Jobs were eradicated. We stayed apart but came together.

'Extraordinary times' was the phrase of choice. When we got sick of that we changed adjective to 'tumultuous'. Now, all we do is start our emails with "hope you're keeping well in the madness".

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The Lost Generation was a social generational cohort who came of age during World War I. The 'lost' in this instance refers to the "disoriented, wandering, directionless" spirit of the survivors in the aftermath.

Will we feel similar when this struggle subsides?

Experience

Our baggage won't be as heavy as a war. We can't touch our enemy and we didn't choose to walk into battle. In a war, there is always a moment where humanity decides to pull the trigger.

The psychological effect of that decision is much weightier. So the comparison can't be made. We are in a much better position, but the disorientation, the wandering, and the directionless are things we will all encounter.

Each of us has lost something. Whether that be a loved one, a job, an opportunity, or an experience. While some are more considerable than others, they each deserve a moment of grief.

This should be the wedding season.Instead, hotels are empty, flowers are in bloom but not in bouquets, and wedding dresses hang solemnly in wait. There are hundreds of couples who have had to postpone or cancel their joyous day. Thankfully, their experience is something they will find again.

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Then there are moments in time one will never get back. It's small, but I can't help thinking of the current Leaving Cert students. The build-up is excruciatingly long but the pay-off is worth it. The summer between secondary school and the next step is forever tinged in a golden hue in my mind.

My friends and I made the most of that summer, going to concerts, house parties, and the beach. On results night, we said our final goodbye to that chapter. This year's cohort won't get the closure they deserve or get to enjoy the final act of adolescent innocence.

I think of college students, who will lose one of those heady years in life where the worries of the world can't touch you.

And selfishly, I think of myself at 25. My twenties are meant to be the years of exploration and sweet abandon. The years mean freedom, but my peers and I find ourselves confined, unsure and nervous. Many have come home from abroad, their international plans cut short.

Hard times

However, this rings true for every age group. It's the communions, the confirmations, the retirement parties, the birthday celebrations, the big house move, the career change, and every other small or gigantic plan we had in place.

Collectively, we are deer caught in headlights. Feeling our way around for an end to the drama. When this road ends, we will turn a corner to another and it will be a much bumpier journey.

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Today in the Financial Times, Brooke Masters wrote of the grim prospects which face graduates. Job vacancies are down by two-thirds year on year. Jobs have been cancelled or deferred, industries will change, towns and cities will adapt and unfortunately, there will be struggles. Those who experienced the depths of the 2008 crash will feel history repeating itself.

In the short space of 12 years, we have a generation who will have lived through two periods of intense global economic hardship and were barely out of the starting gates.

It's like a bad dream you had once that is starting to recur.

History and hope

The FT piece stated that if we use history as a guide, these bleak prospects will haunt us for years to come – just like 2008 did.

Yet, history also shows we bounce back. After every war, depression, recession, and any other threat that jeopardises society, we eventually reset. The media has a habit of leaning on the side of bad news. Yes, it's reality, but reality isn't all doom. At some point, life will get better, the economy will get better and the virus and every hardship it brought will get better.

We have to hold onto that. If we don't, then what do we work towards?

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It won't be easy and tears of sadness and frustration will be shed. We will be disorientated, we will wander and we will be without direction, but at some point, we won't.

Then we will make up for everything lapsed. Each late night, each party, each wedding, each job, each success will be stretched to reconcile the months, days and minutes we didn't get.

We will all be lost for a little while, but someday soon we will be found.


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