I turned 24 this week. As my shade of green turns darker with another year of experience and exposure, it seems only fair that I evaluate my development and my position in life. Slowly my fear of uncertainty and alienation erodes me… Sometimes too slowly. The curse of the ‘young and the beautiful’ has afflicted a large portion of my generation. With all our opportunity and self-entitlement, we have suffered from the whole enormity of it all. The young and the beautiful are also the young, the beautiful and the fucking terrified. Terrified of failure, humiliation, alienation and loneliness. The world has an inescapable hugeness about it that has shadowed our lives. Whilst formerly technology hadn’t been quite sophisticated enough to completely illuminate this, we face the double-edged sword of the knowledge of how competitive the world is, how overwhelming it can be. So we worry and we wait until it is just a little too late. It takes a brave soldier to act without fear of consequence and with years of being tainted by wavering peer approval, we are a tentative and confused group of individuals.
With the internet, trends are tracked closer than ever. Those who step out of line were formerly the bravest. Now, everyone seems to step out of line at the same time, making the art of separating one’s self from the group appear that much harder. You grow your facial hair, you attend protest rallies, you like long macchiatos? Ain’t that just the scene these days? But that’s kind of cool that following trend is not really so relevant anymore for most of us because we don’t quite understand if we are following the real trend or something that seems to be the trend operating in the cafe you are located at, reading some obscure novel from some Hungarian novelist who struggled through the Cold War.
Can you look in a stranger’s eye? Are you intimidated by those who are more appealing to the opposite sex than you? It is kind of scary how caught up we all get in our insecurity and inverse shallowness when we are approached by a good looking stranger. Sizing ourselves up, hoping to be noticed, trying to set ourselves apart. Sure, we all act like we don’t give a fuck but at the heart of it, we just want to be wanted. For the right reasons of course. It was embarrassing when we were teenagers and no one even glanced our way. Now, it’s kind of just like, well, I’m just going to fucking dance. The decision that seems to approach us like a bearded man hitting a long mac and a bocconcini panini in an inner-city cafe is the choice of what we want to be… and excuse the simplicity, what we want to be wanted for. Wanted for our charming wit, our novelty factory, our stern leadership, our hardened body, our sincerity, our reckless abandon. Some of us don’t get to choose our fate. Just another pretty face, a helping hand, a token connection to another world. Social acceptance unfortunately requires a certain amount of sacrifice and filtering as we swap masks depending on the situation.
One of the hardest facts to accept as we grow up and descent into minor to extreme cynicism is the ‘use or be used’ mantra that our lives have been shrouded in. Capitalist society requires us to subscribe to this philosophy in order for our acceleration in the game of life. Listen to our leaders… listen to those who’ve been there before.
They scream, ‘we need to jump on those ladders to ensure financial stability, a future for our children and fitting in with the team. We are told that the people floating down the snakes are the ones that will always be there. Refugees from war-torn nations, powerless minorities, the homeless and the undereducated. Don’t worry about them, worry about the promotion dangling in front of you that will see you invited to the cocaine-drenched parties for the rich and famous, the 50 foot yacht and the crystal tower amongst people of your own stature. We won’t meddle in your life if you don’t meddle in ours. Unless we need somewhere to chuck a smelting factory or a new group of refugees who might bother our routine if they come to close to our little bubble. You start bothering us and we’ll send in the fear, the disgust and the establishment to throw shade on your little agenda.’ How can we not hear them when they scream in our ears and stomp their feet on our hands, not letting us get off our knees until we accept the terms and conditions.
3000 different avenues to travel down. 3000 overpriced degrees to choose from. 3000 people going for a job, 12 to be hired. Work hard, stay in school, find a career and succeed. But remember it is who you know, not what you know. You’ve got to market yourself, be an individual however remember you are part of the team so don’t talk out of turn and you get four weeks off a year… just keep in mind that you’ve got to take them over Christmas. That’s if you get the job. Otherwise you can just reapply next year! Or maybe get your masters or look into other fields. The opportunities are endless once you forget about making money from an independent venture or you want a job that allows you to have your weekends.
We fear not finding a purpose, not having the means to contribute to something greater than ourselves and not being the person you dreamt you might be as a child. Sometime I think I may never be the elite sportsmen I wanted to be as a kid, but I can still be a great many things. Other days, I lean back on my seat and think long and hard and start to become consumed by the hurry, the pace, the tick that has implanted itself in my head as the minutes race by. It is the bureaucratic means to stop us from creating that perfect first impression that many of us dread. Sending off emails, letters, telegrams, whatever it takes! Only to have the return letter tearing our wants and desires to shreds. ‘We’re sorry, the position is filled. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.’ The soul is crushed by the whole process and we just start to wish that we had have worked that little bit harder. Perhaps that would have meant we would have missed the parts of life that are really worth being part of.
Do enough of us speak out anymore? Where have the grand displays of passion that we are used to seeing in movies, television, books and art gone? Were they ever truly real? Are we so scared of offending through our rash comments that we now just cover our backsides from morning to midnight? The world is a scary place when you look at it as a whole. The myriad of races, cultures, laws, regulations, skyscrapers, wall posts, likes, comments, hashtags, opinions, desires, wants, needs, romances, lust, love, limits, dreams and passions. It’s anything but uncomplicated. So when we speak out of turn and everyone starts to turn their back on us, what do we do? Apologise and hope it goes away? Carry on and fight what we think is right? Give up and think it is all too hard? These are the fears that consume us. We have no control on what others think of us but we are too vain and hopeful to not care.
But what do I really have to fear? I’m straight, I’m white, I’m a man and I’m in my 20s. I could be 75, alone with huge debt, a tiny apartment, prostate cancer and no health insurance. My daughter is about to get re-married but has no money for the wedding and another kid on the way. I could be a young woman being hollered at in the streets as she heads to the abortion clinic to terminate a pregnancy that was caused by a guy who laughed when he told me his condom broke. He couldn’t have left my apartment quick enough to watch the preliminary final. And today I had to put up with him waltzing downstairs, brown Aquila shoes announcing his importance, giggling with another male executive about some secret men’s business that they’ll never share with me. I could be homosexual, in love with my boyfriend who I like to hold hands with and kiss when I get that romantic urge. People still stare at us like this is some sort of new trend and some mutter stuff like ‘faggots’ and ‘poofs’. I brush it off, but it still hurts as much as it did when my head was being smashed against a concrete wall by a kid at my high school for no reason other than for bleaching my hair blonde when I was 14. And no matter how much support is floating around at the time, we still hear the same exhausting excuses for not allowing partners, some who’ve been together for 10-15 years, to consummate their relationship and waltz to John Farnham’s Freedom after we’ve become one. I could be an Indigenous Australian, discriminated against from birth due to the ingrained stereotypes, statistically ignored and under-resourced and systematically undervalued. The butt of jokes, viewed as lazy, unfairly advantaged (despite all legitimate evidence pointing the other way) and primitive.
But I’m not. And I suppose I’m lucky. I am lucky. I’m so lucky. I’m 24 years old, I’m smiling and I’m getting a bike for my birthday. I could fall in love tomorrow. I could move to London. I could reach for something impossible, something that those in a worse situation could only dream about. And it kind of makes me feel guilty. Here I am, warm, loved and content, writing my blog, planning for my future and still scared shitless. But I won’t let it hold me down. The fear is our driver or our tormentor. It acts in different ways but it will always be there. We may fear that we might not make it tomorrow, we might not be able to afford to buy milk tomorrow, we might never be able to afford a house, we might just never be happy despite living in a crystal palace. It doesn’t matter what it is, we will always fear something, be it tangible or intangible, be it a ridiculous hypothetical or our foreseeable destruction.
When I was a kid, my biggest fear was a crocodile snatching my t-shirt and dragging me into a river. Now my biggest fear is not figuring out how to rid myself of fear without running out of time. Something tells me I’m definitely not the only one…
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”