Just like the rest of your generation, you’re facing an existential crisis.
The first step to self-actualisation begins with facing some harsh truths.
Truth 1 – Life is unfair
Do you remember when that vicar came to your school and told you ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth’? No? Me neither. But for the sake of illustration; let’s say he did. Anyway, the point is, was wrong. Perhaps there was once a time, before science, Bertrand Russell and fiddly Catholic priests ruined everything, when that kind of rhetoric would have provided some comfort. A time when the grinding misery of existence was offset by the knowledge that the Norman invader who stole your wife, your pigs and the little dignity you had, would soon be burning in the eternal fires of hell, whilst you sat on a white, fluffy cloud bathed in sunlight and listening to Now That’s What I Call Lute Music! 1066. But the death of religion and your inability to fully commit to enlightenment principles and Humanism, leaves you in a kind of existential no-man’s-land, feeling that life is fundamentally unfair. How in God’s name does Simon Cowell get to hop on his private jet to Miami on a weekend whim, whilst you slide another £10 further in to your overdraft topping up Toyota Yaris so you can drive to Penzance for a weekend of camping in the pissing rain!? Well, he does. And when he dies (presumably a result of a constricted testicle from wearing his trousers around his armpits), he’ll lie rotting in the ground just like you, and that will be that.
Truth 2 – You will probably die before you retire
Once upon a time there were these things called pensions. You may have heard of them. But these were not just any old pensions. These were pensions that meant you could live like a fucking king at the age of sixty. Having already paid off your mortgage (‘What’s one of those?’ I hear you cry), you could spend your nest egg on Caribbean cruises, outdoor pizza ovens and Viagra and still have a few grand left over to enjoy being bed-bathed by a student care nurse in a private home overlooking Bournemouth Pier. And why the hell not?! Your dad earned every penny of that. He turned up every day with a flask of weak tea, flirted with the receptionist and pushed paper around his desk like a Pro for that final salary jackpot. If you must insist on doing your thesis on The Role of Phallic and Patriarchal Symbolism in ‘Postman Pat: Special Delivery Service’ and then wind up working in refurbished fish market in Shoreditch for a left-of-Lenin think tank, then don’t expect to get a big payout when you leave. Oh, but don’t expect to get one if you’re an engineer, bank clerk or scientist either. But stop your whining and get on with it. And whilst you’re there, could you work a bit longer to help to pay off the massive deficit left by your dad’s overly generous final salary scheme? Great, thanks. And then, if a robot hasn’t already taken your job or murdered you, you’ll get to spend what pittance you have left paying for surgery to have your spine and wrist reconstructed having been sat at a desk, typing well into your early nineties. Enjoy your twilight year.
Truth 3 – You can’t afford to start a family
In the same vein as myths one and two, legend has it that there was a time when you could get your foot in the door of a cushty job, buy a house and then think about having 2.4 children (perhaps rounding it down or up accordingly). But now you can barely afford to feed yourself. Luckily, your partner’s generalised anxiety disorder and cripplingly low self-esteem has manifested itself as an eating disorder, otherwise you’d be having to share your Gousto box for one. But you can forget about trying to feed a couple of bottomless rug-rats. You’re not even allowed to stuff them with reconstituted meat and Wagon Wheels anymore unless you want to be paid a visit by social services (thank you very much Jamie Oliver and HFW). The good news is; kids are dickheads, and you have the perfect excuse not to have them. Anyway, your sperm count is precisely four from all the microplastic you’ve consumed, so even if you do win the lottery you’re destined to die sad, lonely and surrounded by cat excrement.
Truth 4 – You will never form deep and meaningful relationships with other humans
You have over five-hundred Facebook friends, one-thousand Twitter followers and six WhatsApp groups on the go, but no one likes you, and you don’t like them. There was a girl you started speaking to on Plenty of Fish, who was in to Elbow and had read Notes from the Underground (just like you!), but she got angry when you wouldn’t transfer £500 to pay for medicine for her sick grandmother and turned out to be a Russian prostitute. Still, you’ve always got your old school mates, hey? Except Steve’s moved to Dubai, has started wearing pastel-coloured Ralph Lauren polo shirts and works for a hedge fund with a double-barrelled name. Craig is intolerably self-righteous since he started working for a charity which refurbishes second-hand wind instruments so that Syrian refugees can form orchestras, and he clogs up your feed with climate change videos and memes about veganism. You feel an intense pressure to do exhaustingly productive stuff, when all you really want to do is go to the pub, drink hoppy ale and play pool. AI may be your only hope of finding someone that really understands you, but you will be reminded of your underlying loneliness and disconnection from society when you send your latex companion off to Japan for four weeks to have its arsehole repaired.
Truth 5 – You need to show some gratitude, Son!
Having read the previous four truths, you would be forgiven for thinking that your future is grim and meaningless, and it may well be. But in general, the world has improved, and is continuing to improve, by almost every measure of human progress. Compared to any previous era, fewer people are dying due to war, famine and disease. The percentage of those in absolute poverty is the lowest it’s ever been. Child mortality is down. More people, especially girls, are receiving an education than at any other time in history. You live in an exponentially more interesting, tolerant and free world than anyone who has gone before you. You have access to all the information in the world that has ever existed. You have more free time to explore your interests and passions. You can travel the world more easily and more affordably than your forefathers. Your opportunities are endless, and unless you’re suffering from chronic physical pain, or languishing in the hell of depression or grief; you are lucky to be alive.
So, before you fix that hosepipe the exhaust of your mum’s Yaris and welcome oblivion with open arms, step back and have some gratitude.
The greatest truth of all is that you’re fortunate to be right here, right now.