The Audacity to Dream

001 | Yearning for More

Thirty is the new twenty we are told. A period that permits us to approach life post- adolescence with reckless abandon. More than anything, it separates us from the generations before us. We unlike them it would seem, have the luxury of time. More than ever we are aware of our own individuality: our right to choose, to be free, to speak our minds, to not be labelled or shackled; not by norms we did not create. If thirty is the new twenty we can extend our adolescence till we feel ready to face life. A life without a plan is perhaps now seen as ideal. It is the antithesis to modern measures of success. A two-fingers up to Thatcherite notions of aspiration and social mobility. All we want is to be free!

I tow the line toward aspiration and social mobility. Third generation immigrant whose parents came ahead to test the waters. I came off the plane with a plan formed out of gratitude for the opportunity I have been given. I was not going to let it go to waste.

In a year and 10 months, I will be 30 and that makes me anxious. My anxiety has little to do with the specifics of the age but more with the uncertainty  around what I would have achieved in that time. By all accounts,  I am doing well. I have a regular job, a decent pay, a roof over my head and a disposable income that affords me the occasional luxury of the  matcha latte. I have family whom I love and take pleasure in complaining about and friends who serve as a quiet nudge to pursue my goals whatever those may be.

In some way  I represent a socially mobile Britain: the daughter of immigrants who has gone on to fulfill the promise of what is possible in these United Kingdoms. A testament to our ‘common wealth’. My paternal Grandmother gives thanks everyday for what we have been able to achieve. That each of us can go back home and account wisely for time spent away. We have not squandered our opportunity. We have made good on the promise to be better than our parents and for that, we have their blessing.

Finishing university was a culmination of late nights and early mornings studying by candle light. It was for the forgoing of new things and subordination of life’s comforts to pay for extra lessons. It was for the packing up and starting over in countries whose tongues we did not understand and whose people on first sight seemed alien and unwelcoming. Graduation was  for the sense of purpose and urgency instilled from and early age; the audacity to stand up with your foreign accent and speak like you have always belonged. It reinforced the disregard with which you greeted every suspicious look because you understand those looks come from a place of fear and fear is something you refuse to pay mind. Victimhood does not serve your purpose.

After graduation came ‘the second phase’. The routine of daily grind that will eventually  bring with it the bounty for which you have patiently ploughed. By this point, you are used to your parents dragging you table-to-table at family gatherings introducing their daughter the engineer, solicitor, entrepreneurs. Their son the teacher, pharmacist, nurse.They probably cannot explain what it is you actually do but they are sure it is important and they say so. They do this not to gloat (always) but to vindicate their efforts.  This is what they came here for.

The weight of expectation is something you bear happily. This is who you are, the stuff you are made of. You laugh when they speak of how unhappy children are because of the burden parents place on them. “Pressure is a privilege”, you say. “It makes us better people”e. You are proof of that. There is more work to be done: mortgage, marriage, children, promotions…..

You get down to it. A corporate job in the city, a flat share in an urbanesque area; trendy, but not too costly; you have a mortgage to save for. Soon you begin to entertain questions of settling down  though you quietly murmur “I’m not ready” or “I don’t want to”.

Your reality is that of long days and OK pay. The world is full of dreamers like you. Competition is tough.  You realise you have to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. Unlike the first phase, this part cannot be scripted. Post shock, you slowly begin to take charge. Your new perspective brings with it questions: is this really what you want?

You know success is mostly defined by what we have to show for it. We have to evidence how well we are doing , if not for ourselves but for others to see. It is aspirational. A sort of gentle cajole into middleclass-dom. This is our version of the American Dream and yet it is a dream you are no longer sure you want; not for what it seems it will cost you. You  crave more but can’t quite say what more is.

In looking for answers you stumble upon the isms. Movements monetized to help you achieve the self-awareness you so desperately seek. Their leaders are emblems of enlightenment: they went seeking and found more. They insist on the radical: rebel! forsake the conventional.

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Shunning the world rings of arrogance and cowardice to you. You want to be a part of it to make it better. Soon you realise these isms do not hold the answers you seek. More is something you will have to define for yourself driven by the right motives.  You give more a name: PURPOSE. That sense that you exist for a reason, one bigger than yourself. That you are a part of the world and invested in making it better. If you continue on the path you are one it will be because it, after all, fulfils the yearning that you have. If you change it will be to make you a better person. A better citizen.

You start with the little things:

  • Being kinder to yourself.
  • Taking time to be thankful
  • Reminding yourself of what is truly important to you.
  • Doing more of the things that make your life enjoyable.

It is about growth, seeking those things that enhance you as a person for nothing else but its own sake. With time, you take pride in the intangibles: your experiences, the quality of your relationships,  the value you bring to the world.

A year and 10 months from now you will  still attend to your daily grind because now it has a purpose. It lets you do the things you want.

A year and 10 months from now I will wake up to find I am OK.

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C K

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