The Lost Decade
Author's note: I want readers to realize that this decade is far from lost, despite it's common name as the... Show full author's note »
ForewordEvery night when I was a kid, my mom would interrupt whatever bad sitcom or reality TV show I was watching to turn on the news. She’d say, “Let’s see what happened in the world today, shall we?”
This was posed as a question, but I had no doubt that there was only one acceptable answer.
“Sure,” I’d say with a smile. The truth was that I always loved watching the news, and my dream of becoming a broadcast journalist is largely accredited to her affinity for the news. When a story was really sad, my emotional Italian mother would start to tear up.
She’d been through a lot, too; abused as a young girl, she worked hard in grade school so that she could attend the University of Pennsylvania where she met my dad. She was only 17 because she was young for her class. My mom paid her way through college and started a new life for herself as a pediatric then psychiatric nurse, helping others make their lives better, too.
So on came ABC 7 news. Familiar faces every night, saying familiar things.
“We live in hard times,” they’d say. “Money is tight.” Although I already knew that firsthand as my father had been unemployed for almost 3 years.
Recession. Terrorism. Hurricanes. Cancer. War.
A scared nation. A “lost decade.”
People started saying this at the end of the decade: Lost. But I couldn’t help thinking, can the decade really be lost when it only just ended? Is it really lost to us when it only just occurred? I write this memoir for the sake of recording what the decade was like before we forget or label it with inaccurate stereotypes.
It may be hard to reflect on this period until more time has passed. Perhaps after another decade or two people will be able to look back and more clearly define the era by its clichés and stereotypes. However, I’d like to reflect on it with a fresh memory, from the eyes of someone who has grown up in it. I have only known this age, anyway, and don’t have much to compare it to. The US in shock and devastation is the only US I have ever known. Living in this time period in many ways has shaped who I am and the way I see the world.
This is why when my dad asked me one night at dinner what time period I would live in if I had the choice, I knew my answer immediately: right here, right now.
Fat. Lazy. Rude. Generation Z has been stereotyped by obesity, playing too many violent video games, and text messaging at the dinner table. Well, this is one Z child who does not possess those traits, and I’m certainly not the only one. But what is it really like to live in my generation? We are complex and hardworking individuals who have been forced to mature more rapidly than past generations. We hold an extreme weight of the dark time period we have faced. We’ve have our childhood innocence stolen from us, having adult crises thrown at us before we were able to understand them.
Additionally, our generation’s pressure to succeed is tremendous. If a child doesn’t get A’s in school, play sports, and achieve high levels of success, then he/she is unappreciated. I was blessed with parents who only care that I am my own personal best, but unfortunately parents like this are becoming harder to find. I’ve seen other kids crack under pressure from teachers and parents. I’ve seen kids quit activities they loved because they couldn’t handle the stress it caused as a result of not being the absolute best at it. I’ve seen students give up their social lives to fulfill their parents’ academic expectations. And unfortunately, I’ve seen kids become depressed due to pressures put on them by society—be it regarding appearance, athletic or academic ability, or social standing.
We are worthy of your respect. We have earned it. In fact, to all adults of the 21st century, please retain a little respect for us. We have lived through quite a lot – from terrorism causing us to learn how to act during a “lock in” at school; to watching family and friends die in the 9/11 attack; to seeing our parents lose their jobs and, with that, their faith; to being labeled as a helpless generation that will live shorter and less successful lives that those of their parents.
You must understand our struggles, as we have toughed our way through some of the most hopeless times our country has faced.
One last piece of food for thought before we begin: as any stressed out honors high school student of today knows, history repeats itself. Don’t let another generation of children see the nation in the same state of hopelessness that I have.
So without further adieu, here is a memoir of “the lost decade” documented while it’s really not yet lost at all, in the eyes of a youth of Generation Z.