Une Génération Perdue

I have always been fascinated with writers whose words radiate within me, who take me away from myself, but at the same time allow me to get in touch with the deepest, darkest places in my soul.

Recently, I have been re-reading books I grew up inhaling, in the small bedroom I hid in while growing up in a town I hated and couldn’t wait to leave. They saved me from the torture of high school life. I have returned to literature I spent lazy summer days devouring at the island, to discover more about myself and my place in this world.

Currently I have gone back to “A Movable Feast”, my favorite Hemingway novel, about his time in Paris. For me, each sentence, each word, is chosen perfectly and I am lost in images of the Paris he lived in and the Paris I know. I miss travel. I miss the freedom it allows me and the ability to live spontaneously. The book was a major influence on my life in my 20’s when I first discovered it in a dusty second-hand bookstore in the dry desert air of the southwest. I consumed it, as if it were food, reading it over and over again until it felt like a part of my being. I wanted to write words and sentences such as this. I wanted to play with them, rearrange them, make them perfect. It only made sense that during this time I would find a man who was a complex, destructive writer, who found me fascinating, and tried to absorb my being as if I were his muse. But his attention span for relationships, similar to his writing, was brief. We had an on and off affair for a few months before I saw how destructive he was for me. I felt him taking pieces of me, pieces of my soul but giving nothing in return, and I finally realized I was more valuable on my own than with him. I was better at the writing game than he. And I finally refused to share that part of myself with him, to give him access to it.

In Hemingway’s book he speaks of his afternoons with Gertrude Stein and her declaration that he was of the of the “génération perdue” –  the lost generation. But as history and time marches on, aren’t we all part of a lost generation? Certainly the writer I was with was lost. I was lost in my early 20’s. Today I work with those transforming from children to adults and I see how they flounder. I cannot help but agree with his words from the novel: “I thought that all generations were lost by something and always had been and always would be“. We are. History repeats itself, and if we do not learn from it, the cycle begins again, and we all find ourselves seeking for something real. Something we can hold on to.

I have also begun reading, finally, the longer novels of David Foster Wallace. A brilliant mind, lost too soon. I have an odd affinity with him, not only because of his illness that eventually took his life, but because I feel that I have followed (perhaps stalked is a better word) him from one place of employment to another. At every institution I have worked at, he was somehow a part of it at some point during his life, and his ability to describe life and people fascinate me. I love this sentence from his novel “The Broom of the System”: She would rather be a character in a piece of fiction than a real person. I got to wondering just what the difference was.

Most days I would love to be a fictional character, rather than have to live the daily grind that we all go through. Some days I feel I am a fictional character and the world around me is something to simply observe but not participant in. I do not want to participate in it. I understand that most of this is from my brain – the rapid cycling, the depressions, and the manias I miss more than anything. I am still lost, though I feel most of my generation has probably found a grove, or at least settled into a life they may have never imagined or wanted, but an existence they have accepted as reality. I cannot settle. It is something I have fought against my entire life. Perhaps my generation does not have as many lost souls as when we were younger and trying to figure out the “real world”, but I still believe there are many of us out there, trying to find our way. Trying to make sense of the insanity of daily existence.

I saw my shrink yesterday. She upped the anti-depressant I am supposed to be taking, though I told her I hated it and wished she would take me off it. I haven’t taken it since the first week she prescribed it for me, two months ago. Sometimes I wonder if the white coats listen to their patients or if they simply follow the protocol that has been updated in every edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is where the system fails. We go to people for help, but end up feeling more lost than ever. It is the disease, yes. But it is also being human and wanting to have some say in one’s medical condition and how the patient would like to treat it.

So I go back to my books – back to the authors’ who struggled as much as I am, because there, if only briefly, I can find peace. I can find words that express how I feel inside and inspire me to return to this space, day after day, to write. To bleed the demons out of my soul and try to make it through another day.

Une Génération Perdue. I am still in mine. Are you in yours?

© Sorrow & Kindness


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