Wednesday, April 6


Lately I have been re-reading a cherished favourite from my late teens, On The Road. In it I found a passage written by author Jack Kerouac in 1957, which summed up the malaise that besets young men.

"When I found him in Mill City that morning he had fallen on the beat and evil days that comes to young guys in their middle twenties. He was hanging around waiting for a ship, and to earn his living he had a job as a special guard in the barracks across the canyon."

(For the record, I'd give my left nut to be able to say I did anything across the canyon.)

The character Kerouac describes is listlessly floating through the ether of a mid 1950's serviceman shack community life. Dirt poor, he meekly lives out his week so he can dress up and spend his wage in a blinding flash of rich civility in L.A. on Saturday night with his girl Lee Ann. He is floating through his life, week to week, without direction or comprehension.

With friends of mine who are in a similar age bracket (22-23), including a few who are older (25-26), I've often discussed the random nothingness that is being a young man in your twenties.

Trapped in a largely directionless life following highschool of either tertiary education, a trade, full-time work, or nothing, we collectively battle against the crisis of identity and purpose we are floundering in. I guess the crux of the argument is that young men have no sense of purpose anymore.

The days of lifetime job certainty are well and truly over, in it's place we have the dog-eat-dog society of 'me first' and little reassurance but for self reliance.

These generations have no war to fight, no bridge to build, no mountain to climb. At the turn of the previous century, young men went to war in South Africa for 'a sense of adventure'. Instead we backpack and go on nigh-club tours.

At the age of 24, explorer Matthew Flinders circumnavigated and mapped Tasmania, proving to the white world that Van Diemens Land was infact an island. He was also the first to suggest that Terra Australis be renamed Australia.

At the age of 23, I sleep in and moan about driving the 37 kilometres to University if it's raining. I have named several family pets.

We're soft, foolish, and no where near headstrong.

The gap between completion of our teens and the commencement of the commitment trinity of marriage, mortgage and fatherhood is growing ever wider, as society revolves towards increasingly costly home ownership, late 20s marriages and early 30s childbirth.

While this gap increases, this stretch of uncharted and uncertain water becomes the domain of the purposeless young man. There is nothing to fill this gap, except it appears, a great deal of lethargy, ignorance, and apathy; and for many, weekends spent drowning unknown sorrows at the bottom of pint glasses at cheap suburban nightclubs.


Blogger Erica said...

I hear ya brother. Cept it's not only young men who feel this way. The days where a young woman would finish school, debut herself into society, find a husband and then start pumping out kids are gone. I've spent many a night brooding over where the signposts of my life are supposed to be pointing.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually really liked that. Noicely written.

(I'd also give my left nut to be able to have a left nut which I could then use in a sentence wherein I submit the aforementioned left nut as an offering. Guess I'll just use an ear lobe or something instead)

- TJ

5:32 PM  

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