We are the next lost generation.

Our generation has been through a lot. Disregarding comparisons to generations past, it’s clear that Gen Z hasn’t exactly grown up during the most stable time.

For those of us currently in high school, our lives thus far have been marked by an over 20-year long war, a housing crash, a pandemic, an attempt to overthrow the US government, and the ever-looming threat of climate change hanging over our heads.

It’s difficult to keep optimism during times like this, and I would argue that we largely haven’t. There’s an overwhelming sense of nihilism I’ve both seen and felt myself.

It can be nice to be nihilistic, especially when it feels like the world is crashing down all around you. For me, I’ve always tried to find comfort in the stability of instability. Sure, everything is a mess, but at least the fact that it’s a mess can be counted on. I know, every morning, that I will wake up to headlines out of some sort of dystopian satire.

Of course, we’re by no means the first generation to go through a similar degree of sheer sociopolitical catastrophe. In fact, in both circumstance and reaction, our generation is extremely similar to the so-called “lost generation” of post-WWI America.

The lost generation was marked by turmoil on all fronts. They were the people who had come of age in the middle of the first world war, a devastating conflict that seemed to, for people alive at the time, drag on forever and be for no good cause at all. Followed by the end of the war, they lived through the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

On top of that, trust in government was abysmal at best, with many people feeling utterly disillusioned and disheartened after being abandoned and disregarded

They were also growing up at a time of great cultural shifts, where ideas on issues like race, gender, politics and economics were rapidly changing.

Sound familiar?

As a generation, it’s as if we’re going through our own lost generation. Everything feels like it’s crashing down all around us, but we’re just supposed to continue on like a million things aren’t going wrong.

We may not have faced a world-devastating war, but we went through a deadly pandemic. And the political situation around it only made things worse. 

Speaking generally, our generation doesn’t have the most trust in the government, and we’ve been given plenty of reasons not to. Most of us have grown up entirely during the War in Afghanistan, which dragged on to the point that people began to question its purpose. On top of that, 

it seems like our world is only getting more and more polarized, and our differences seem irrevocable.

The question arises of how this has affected us. We’re extremely nihilistic, and have lost nearly all hope in our political and economic systems.

As well as this, there’s a trend arising among people our age of wanting to leave the US for Canada or Europe, considering all the political turmoil. The same happened in the 1920s, when young people flocked to Europe to escape.

However, from this turmoil came new styles of art with new messages. It was the lost generation that brought us authors like Ernest Hemingway and artists like Salvador Dali.

In fact, the term “the lost generation” itself was coined by contemporary author Gertrude Stein, referring to the disillusioned, directionless spirit of the generation that came of age during the war.

Works from the time tended to take one of two paths — depressing or absurdist. Many written works, like T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, teeters between the two, between hard-hitting commentary and obscure satire.

The commonality between most media of the time is an odd sense of nostalgia — a desperate hope that things could go back to the way they once were, and that the intimidating parts of life can be reduced down to simple pleasure.

It can often feel that way now as well. It’s difficult to keep spirits high, and I find myself slipping sometimes. I feel like there’s no point in trying anymore, when everything I’m seeing in the news is so awful.

And, yeah, in times like those, it feels pretty alluring to run away to Europe and leave everything behind.

I feel the same sense of nostalgia as that of the many books I’ve read. I have this pervasive hope that one day, I could wake up and everything would be okay again. No one would have to worry about the current political polarization or climate change or seeming never-ending worries of war.

Unfortunately, that’s not possible. We’re in the thick of things. And it seems like there’s no way out.

But, until things got better, the lost generation made some beautiful art. They showed future generations their pain in hopes it wouldn’t be repeated. However, much like history, it was.

We are by no means the first — nor will we be the last — generation to go through tumultuous times. And we can find comfort in that fact. Instead of wallowing, we can explore art and writing and make something beautiful to get us through the darkness.

The lost generation made it through, and so can we.