Zoomers: The Lost Generation

By Wilhelm Matthew A. Tan

When we were children, our elders frequently asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. Most of us wanted to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, or whatever high paying job our precocious minds could think of. Faced with an unstable political situation, two health crises, a problematic economy with increasing inflation rates, and a world descending into madness, it is not uncommon to hear words of despair from the Generation Z. When asked about their future plans, one cannot blame them if they freeze or repeat the words they have been saying since childhood albeit without the conviction their innocent selves would have in their voices.

I write this essay to let the people know the opportunities this generation has been robbed of. Due to the pandemic raging on in the prime of our youth, we are confined to the rooms of our houses when we should be out exploring the world, taking on the challenges they have to offer, or simply enjoying freedom before we step into the adult routine we would have to follow for the next fifty years. Our late teens to early twenties are a time for personal growth where we test the waters of “adulting”, re-evaluating our past ambitions, and absorbing the lessons we may learn from the various experiences we have in the outside world. Is it not prudent for the sixteen-year-old boy whose life goal is to become a doctor to attend a film festival only to discover his passion for filmmaking, and that he wants to tell stories through movies instead of working tiring hours in the emergency room? Being a filmmaker and a doctor are two equally important careers in society, though being a doctor has more social prestige and promises a more stable income. A filmmaker brings delight to children as they watch their cartoons with moral lessons on the silver screen, they jolt the audiences to reality upon showing documentaries on social issues and the plight of the impoverished on a television set, and they offer us escapes from reality through the different genres they specialize in. What about the eighteen-year-old girl whose days were spent writing “I will become a lawyer” in her diary, only to find out through joining art workshops and visiting museums that she wants to be an artist just like Van Gogh and da Vinci? No wonder why she was always drawn to the paintings she’d see at the art gallery and the ones displayed at hotel lobbies by painters, esteemed and unknown alike. “And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” says Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets Society. This too, can be applied to paintings that depict life as it is, or a more idealized one for the hopeless romantics out there.

I call this generation lost because we have been through so many detours the world has veered us into. It is rare for me to hear words of hope from my peers, and even rarer to see words of genuine inspiration on social media. It is jarring for us to find out that graduates from the best universities in the country struggle to find employment, despite the notion that these people are the cream of the crop and we must all aspire to get into these schools so that life would be smooth sailing from there on. Who would’ve thought that in this day and age life is no longer “Graduate, get a job that’ll make you rich, get married, have kids, and retire”? There has been so much emphasis on becoming successful that our generation has been fixated on earning diplomas and in turn, earn millions so one would be comfortable later on in life, but we were never really encouraged to pursue our passions as some were deemed useless and wouldn’t make us rich. In truth, professionals never got rich simply because of their profession. No doctor ever built a grand house simply through his practice, nor has an engineer bought the flashy watch on his wrist through his salary alone. This generation is lost in a world that emphasizes materialism and glorifies grueling working hours just to get by without worries about what to eat the following day or having enough to pay the month’s bills.

And yet, we can still find our way to get back on track. As the youth, we are empowered by virtue of our vigor and knowledge of the modern world. We must all stand together and build a world where we are free to pursue our passion without any judgment from other people. Why must we force the singer to be a nurse abroad when she can be popular and allow the Filipinos to enjoy her music in her homeland? Why must an aspiring indie actor be made to clean up after opening hours in a fast food restaurant abroad when his talents can be honed by proper training in the Philippines? This is my challenge to my fellow youth. Enough with the overrated culture of hailing high paying jobs as the only measure of success. When we become proud and show off our passions, only then can we find our way back and settle in our place under the sun.

Wilhelm Matthew A. Tan is a student of Ateneo de Iloilo – SMCS