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6 June 2023

Breaking Grad: The illusion of carefree youth and it’s dwindling longevity

ROSE TURNER

I wish there was a way to know that you’re in the good old days before you’ve left them…

 

Alexa, play Vienna by Billy Joel again. I’m told that I’m living them currently, yet somehow can’t seem to believe it. Recently I was watching Friends, which is undeniably to blame for many of Gen Z’s rose-tinted assumptions for life in your 20s, and found myself perplexed at certain aspects of the character’s lifestyles. Most notably, how Phoebe managed to live in such a nice flat on a freelance salary, how nonchalantly unhealthy relationship dynamics and/or sexual immaturity is normalised or at the very least shrugged off in the name of humour, and most importantly, how they all had the time to idly lounge about in a café on a Wednesday afternoon despite working in standard 9-5 occupations? Perhaps it’s just a vicious manifestation of my anxiety surrounding my own future, but it all appears somewhat dreamlike to the emerging young professional, which I guarantee you is a generous term for myself but, for the sake of argument, you’re invited into my delusion…. 

 

As a 22 year-old on the verge of graduating university, I am constantly being told how lucky I am to still be young, to enjoy the years that are, as I'm frequently reminded, supposed to be the BEST of my life. I understand that on an obvious level this is perhaps true, because after all, I am indeed healthy (again, a generous term), able-bodied and without any hugely pressing responsibility, however the pervasion of inescapable anxiety, social or professional, can’t help but cling to me like the hair tie that, despite your best efforts to wrangle free gently, probably needs a sharper pair of scissors to cut loose. The young, wild and carefree youth that I am assured is within reach is really just slipping away – I wonder: how carefree can one be while simultaneously playing emotional ‘whack-a-mole’ with new pressures on a weekly basis? The increasing demands and expectations that constitute success are constantly in flux; It’s all very well being frequently assured that you have the space and time to relax, and that ‘you have nothing to worry about – you have your whole life ahead of you! , yet the reception is patronising regardless of intended delivery, ever-so slightly out of touch with the very real pressures of contemporary living, and typically collates into the normalising of a lacklustre attitude to good emotional self-care. 

 

While I’m in my final year of university, the other half of my friends have managed to acquire devastatingly impressive occupations that, much like the 1st that I promised myself I’d leave with, are beginning to look further and further out of reach. If only I had a time machine, I’d revert to 2019 and tell the opportunistic, pink-haired, pierced-nose Rosie that despite thinking it noble, an Art History and English Lit degree is only really good for training you to be the most pretentious person in the room…unless there’s a short essay question on Caravaggio’s composition on a mortgage application form? 

 

Then there’s LinkedIn, my nemesis.

 

Regardless of how inclined my peers might be to smear my feed with their performativity, and how quickly I am to scoff at their smugness, I envy their ‘delightedness’ in publicly accepting new chapters (why are they always delighted?), as it serves as a painfully catalytic reminder of how slowly I feel I’m moving. A five minute scroll on LinkedIn and suddenly I’m six years old in the hopping race at sports day, where everyone’s finished, clapped and walked on to their next race while I’m still wheezing my way to the finish line. There is of course  lack of real exposure to pin my naivety to , but I’ll never fail to be in awe of my friends’ ability to evade the trembling fear that BBC’s Industry has installed in me, not least seem unaffected by the big-city loneliness and unemotive modern dating - factors that have a fun little propensity to pepper pre-existing unease, much like throwing petrol on an already blazing fire. Although I’m perhaps being a little dramatic, it seems that with the inflated costs of basic necessities, the lack of employment opportunity for those without 7 PHDs or a godfather who is coincidentally a big executive at Morgan Stanley, and indeed the ‘lazy’ label for those that crave a slow life, the era for an unproblematic and carefree youth is shortening year by year. 

 

Don’t mistake my admiration of structure for jealousy however, those who know me could never picture me in a suit, using graphs and statistics to pitch investments to grey-haired men with too much money and too little social awareness; My worry lies in the middle, as it seems that from my incessant internship applications, my degree is too flowery and unskilled to be employable in business spheres, yet not specialist enough for the creative ones. Fundamentally, I seem to exist in a grey area built upon an expensive and privileged education, a fruity degree in a world desperate for specialist skill, a burning desire to be successful, yet a strong distaste for the culture and anxiety that it thrives off. I know that there’s only limited time that my floaty skirts, ribbons and flighty attitude remain sweet and harmless, but maybe I’ll live in my daydream a little longer and remove myself from the aggressive imminence of growing up all together, maybe I open a quaint little café in a secluded part of the world, that sounds nice right? But wait, that takes heaps of money too…. And what would my family say? My education was so expensive…

 

I suppose I’ll cut the shit. What I’m really trying to say is: 


My name is Rose Turner, I am 22 years old and in my final year of study at Edinburgh University, where I study History of Art and English Literature (MA). I am hardworking (when I feel that others around me are working harder), enthusiastic (when nothing is imminently due), and thrive when faced with creative projects (that are already perfectly tailored to my limited skillset). Despite being comfortable in collaborative settings (where I can quietly blend into the background due to my innate fear of conflict), I demonstrate a host of leadership qualities (I’m a colossal control freak) that would additionally make me perfectly suited to roles that carry heavy responsibility (I’m motivated exclusively by a crippling fear of failure). Therefore, If I flirt with your dad, will he put me on his grad scheme? (Lifted from: Turner, Rose. (2023) Curriculum Vitae. pp.1)

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