Having had multiple existential crises during this past month, and, as a further attempt to avoid the reality of all the university reading that I should be doing, had a sit down with myself and had a long think on why I feel stuck in a place like London that once was the love of my life.
The truth is, my generation is letting me down. It is not what it used be. I’m not placing myself as any better than my peers, but I am willing to acknowledge we have some serious, cultural issues that need tackling. Instead of idealists, adventurers and ambitious young adults; we have the people from Made in Chelsea, Only Way is Essex and Geordie Shore. We have the people who strive to be on Skins whilst simultaneously wanting to be on 90210. We have ‘LAD’ culture. A young culture relying more on building personal, unnecessary drama, so that narcissism is the new core of human ambition. We also have masses of the alternative non-conformist-but-really-conformist-because-they-all-look-the-same-conformists: anti-conformists young adults who believe they are better than the other members of their category because they don’t conform to liking mainstream artists like Beyonce and “over-used” brands like Topshop. How original, they sound just like the 95% of people I daily see roaming the streets of London…specifically Shoreditch and Brick Lane.
If you google something silly and categorical like: ”What does a young Londoner look like”, Google, rather than proving me wrong, re-aliterates everything I have briefly hinted to. The fact that I am surrounded by people who are uninspired, seeking to grab hold of anything ‘vintage’ they can find to conform to the anti-conformists. Some people may call them hipsters, alternatives or ‘indies’ but I simply call them ‘disappointments’. It is suffocating to be surrounded by people who live in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, but aim to be in constant competition on materialistic issues such as: who is friends with who, who is a loser, who is fatter, who has a more original wardrobe, who has been to amsterdam, and who has done the most acid.
Where is the travel? the adventure? the interesting conversation? the ambition? and the aspiration to get out of the bubble of England? I’m not talking about travelling to places like Ayia Napa, Kavos or even that place in Thailand where everyone who takes a gap year goes to so that the drugs are cheaper and the reputation gets cooler, I’m talking about going to explore cultures and meet people from across the globe. Working everywhere and anywhere just so you can keep on moving, making yourself as uncomfortable as possible for a chance to grow the fuck up. More than half of my generation is stuck in ideals that they have seen in films and tv, or, sadly, have seen in their own upbringing. After all, why make yourself uncomfortable and work your arse off so you can travel to places you can’t even pronounce, when your mum tends to your every need and makes you a lovely roast every sunday?
This mentality is excruciating. Having been brought up by liberal parents, open to travel, and having moved myself throughout the years, perhaps this concept is more familiar to me. But surely, having been born in Italy and spending, almost, my first 7 years there until moving to London, should not make me as open to travel as I am, it should make me scared, knowing how difficult moving around will be and how challenging it will be for my character. Yet, here I am, dying to travel, find stories and work with people who can teach me something unique about their culture and about their country. I thrive in new culture, I thrive in the adrenaline that comes with the danger of living somewhere completely alien to you. No matter how difficult it was for me leaving the comfort of Italy, with my big family and childhood, it is something I will thank my parents for every day. The best decision they ever made was to take the leap, move to a foreign country, knowing no one, not knowing the language, and placing me and themselves into a position where each of us can look back to now and be proud of.
The truth is, if my generation, who is the future after all, does not pull themselves together, I am genuinely afraid that the London I once loved and thrived in, will bleed itself dry. England itself is not perfect in current affairs, the streets of London are not as glamorous as tourists first believe, and finding proof that the English gentleman still exists is becoming increasingly harder to find. Yet, these are all qualities that originally made the country stand out. Take the British film industry for example, known globally as hard-hitting and raw film making, it is grim and gritty but it is true to the reality of the human condition. Not glorifying nor idealising the country and its people: it’s why it has worked, and why it remains as one of the film industries that produces some of the most talented actors and directors around. But is this changing? If my generation is in charge of the evolution of the arts, politics, etc etc, then, at the moment, I hold no high hopes.
Even in University, you find people stuck in the mindset of constantly proving themselves – to who? I have no idea. These are 20-something year olds who are stuck in the high school mentality you experience when you’re 15/16. Who actually cares about how much drugs you do and how many people you sleep with? Who cares if now and then you like listening to old classics rather than new, fashionable, House DJ’s? If “being cool” lies at the root all this, what’s cooler than actually knowing you are and doing what you want to do rather than what others expect? Comon London! You know this, you’re famous for this so what the fuck are you doing?!
Honestly, by page 3 of my pointless google, I was ready to rip my hair out because the results were predictable. Surfacing mostly people in their late teens or twenties, convinced that listing all their different drug intakes, spending an hour making sure every rip in their brand new tights or jeans were ‘just’ right so that when they were to whip out a collection of Sylvia Plath’s angst poems in the middle of Starbucks, they would come off as the perfect idiotic non-conformist (but really alike to 95% of twenty year old arses) that they so desperately want to be.
I know this is a hugely prejudiced and subjective comment to make on my part, but it is incredibly tiring to see how little things change at University. Being one of the only people who actually wants to exit the ‘home bubble’, having ambitions in Broadcast Journalism and not being afraid to not limit the search to the UK. Willing to live off nothing as long as that gains me experience and the opportunity to meet people who will have stories un-alike to anything I would ever be aware of. I don’t like getting down and plain dirty, mean about my peers, but I know these people. They’re in my classes, all over my Facebook and everywhere when I go out. The cynical truth that I find myself thinking about over and over again is that, yes, half of the members of my generation are irrevocable, uninspired and two-dimensional people; caring more about others than actually looking around and seeing that life is there to be grabbed.
But, as luck would have it, the majority of my peers stand together, stating their likes and dislikes publicly, making sweeping political statements on Twitter although not knowing shit about anything because they follow, ironically, the ‘Trends”, and scavenging every Oxfam charity shop in hope of finding that one style of jumper that guy/girl was wearing in their Literature class. We’re a generation that lives obsessed by the future, the social hierarchy of groups, who has and hasn’t read Oscar Wilde, and whoever likes Nirvana is automatically ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’.
It’s crazy! I like to listen to Nirvana, I’ve read Oscar Wilde and some Sylvia Plath. I’ve been to places like Bestival and I have taken weekend holidays in places like Milan. So have a gazillion other people! Do I use any of these random and uninteresting facts about myself as a weapon against others to prove myself? No. Because who gives a shit about what I do and what I like? And rightly so. Sure, you’re friends will be your friends because you have something in common with them, but that is a different story from what I am talking about. I’m talking about the attempts to place yourself on pedestals to appease others’ conceptions of you. To fit in an ideal that everyone so desperately tries to not conform to, but by doing exactly like everyone else, falls into the same trap that I see in a hundred University students every day; the trap of a one-minded generation who has forgotten that to get to the future, you have to live in the present, and not as some model of an ideal, but as you.
Because when the current generation passes the torch, if we don’t win back that spark Londoners once had then what do we have to look forward to? If this generation can’t move past the two-dimesional bubble that is so easy to fall into as a Londoner I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, but just a desolate Wasteland; stuck in a painful state of mind.