“Rejoice! Our times are intolerable…the apocalypse will blossom!”
I grew up in an odd generation – although I’m sure every generation believes themselves to be odd. I was born in 2001, a month and a bit after 9/11, and my early years were spent spraying my brother with a hose and playing Pong on the box TV. When I was in my first year of school, teachers used whiteboards exclusively and made us count from 1 to 100 following a board pinned with laminated numbers, but by my fifth they were handing us computers and encouraging us to post our work on blogs. I was given an iPod touch when I was ten, and an iPhone 6 when I turned thirteen. When I was eleven, I emailed my friends to keep in contact, but by the time I was fifteen we used Instagram and Messenger, and nothing else. I grew up surrounded by the internet; the internet in development, no doubt; the internet as a fully-formed but ever-evolving thing, which became more and more open to me. Instagram became accessible when I was twelve, Youtube when I was thirteen, Tumblr when I was fourteen, and by sixteen I was publishing articles and fiction by emailing submissions to various website-only magazines.
The way that Gen Z kids live and interact is so funny to me – our internet memes, our group chats, the fact that my romantic relationships both started over text. I’ve always felt as though our generation is permeated with a sense of loss and grief – most of my friends were born around the time of 9/11, a grief felt the world over, and we are forever shadowed by the grievances of millennials, our forlorn older siblings, family friends, teachers – but also by a sense of insane optimism and hope. Have you seen the climate rallies, the school walk-outs, the long processions of kids with signs walking down inner-city streets? We are marching into the capital and demanding better futures, and I have never been more proud of us. We know things are scary and bad and weird, and maybe there’s a dark nihilism hidden in us all, but we also know our power, and we know we have each other. This generation – my generation – are increasingly queer, artists, activists, change-makers, record-breakers, poets, writers, lovers, fighters. We are a powerful force. We grew up with all the information in the world at our fingertips, and we learnt ourselves how to use it. The great change and fear experienced by older generations doesn’t affect us – we have always known change and fear. We were born into an apocalypse.
Still, torment takes a toll. The storm has always been all around us, so we were never afraid, but we do get tired. Maybe there’s something in the fact that all my friends are insomniacs. That I am already overworked at seventeen, writing this at midnight. Maybe there’s something in the fact that all my friends have mental health issues of some kind or another, some trauma under the surface. Maybe our social media presences, our shiny faces, kind words, our attendance to slut walks, protests and park parties, can give breadcrumb clues to what it takes to be this way. Sleepless nights, teas and coffees, vitamins, anti-depressants, complicated parents, childhood crises, diaries, repression, secrets lost to time, long conversations at night, alcohol, exercise, beach trips, bike rides, screens. The truth is, I am still a scared kid. I can’t speak for all of Gen Z but I can understand that everywhere there is fear, and everywhere there is hope. Hope we created, hope we can see. When I was in Grade Two, older primary school kids organised a school-wide protest against the fact that our principal had chosen to cut down a tree in our yard. Kids stood on the fences, ran through the playground dirt, shouted as loud as they could; one boy I knew then was digging under the fence between the construction site and us with a spoon. It was the first time I heard it, and I’ve heard it ever since: our apocalypse becoming revolution.
Photo credit 📷 Rosemary Ketchum