In 2015, reviewing your life choices can feel like trying to make sense of a big crumpled map in front of you, squinting to work out which road ends up where and what all the names and symbols really mean. What are the real consequences of where I might be going?
In fact, it is more like analysing a child’s drawing, attempting to highlight what is going in which direction and why.
I have an old map that belonged to my Dad. Even though it’s quite creased, It’s an amazing portrait of Morroco, printed in 1970. He was there at that time, working for a tour company. I love opening it out and looking at all of the different sections. It is complicated, but it also has a structure and everything has a place (literally). To me, it represents freedom and adventure – a time in my Dad’s past when he was young and free of responsibility. Life was for the taking, but there was also a guide for you, if you needed it.
Procrastination and generally delaying the onset of real adulthood – a one with a permanent job and a house – was accepted back then. Gentle rebellion of this nature was ok, because work could always be found, as long as you were willing to put in the effort.
But now of course, it’s a different story, a more dystopian one full of high unemployment and benefit sanctions, where options are not really options at all. University is now a matter of wealth and cultural capital, rather than about talent. Some young people (far too many) are ending up too far in one direction and off the side of the map completely into obscurity – identifiable only by crimes committed and verified vulnerability.
I’d love to start thinking of youth choices today as a more coherent map, of true demonstrations of what it’s like to be alive, about prospects and experience. Will this ever become a reality again for our young people?