11 Aug 2014

I'm Not A Real Person Yet

So after a 4 month hiatus, I'm back on the blogosphere. Maybe that's because I’ve only recently recovered from writing my dissertation (a harrowing phase of my life which included multiple breakdowns, but also produced the mildly successful hit "Dissy's Done" à la Frozen), spent too much time revising for French exams (pfft as if), or because I ran out of things to say. Or maybe because I only have £4 in my current bank account (or any account for that matter), and I'm contemplating my life as an impoverished, out of work graduate, with as much life direction as a tangled slinky. Oh, and I just got fined £8 by Barclays because my phone bill bounced (too poor to afford it you see). That’s the price for being a pauper.

But enough with the excuses.

It's ironic perhaps that I wrote my dissertation on American independent filmmaker Noah Baumbach, because he's a sucker for this anxious-ridden phase of life. On my year abroad in Gay Pareeee, I saw his film Frances Ha (a B&W film starring the tantalising Greta Gerwig) and Adam Driver (think HBO/Lena Dunham's Girls). It was this film alone which made me decide to write a whole 8,000 words on the filmmaker, despite having never seen his other films. In retrospect however, I probably should have written on Woody Allen, or someone a little more mainstream. It was a Love/Hate relationship, leaning more towards the latter. Turns out the secondary criticism on Baumbach was sparser than the hair on the Duke of Edinburgh's head. Oh well, it turned out all right in the end, despite not being able to eat for a whole week before it was due in. No mean feat given I'm a massive foodie. The burger I treated myself to after dissertation hand-in made every gland in my body salivate. I’m joking. That's disgusting.

Baumbach's "niche" is struggling twenty-somethings (although sometimes older), stuck in that place between youth and adulthood, whilst refusing to grow up and take on responsibility. “How much longer can I act like a child? Am I still allowed to whinge and moan about trivial matters?” ask confused twenty-somethings. Except more commonly, he/she is unaware of his/her lack of maturity, so probably never gets round to asking such pertinent questions. When I broke down at lunch the other day (“My youth is over ” I lamented), my mum criticised me for acting like my life was already over. "Your life hasn't even begun yet" she muttered, shrewdly.

I was told throughout my teens that university would encompass the "best years of my life", and that I should make the most of it. Now that university is over, and the fear of long-term unemployment has kicked in, I can't help but think that it all goes downhill from here. No more mid-afternoon coffees in Exeter's many cafés, nor weekly shopping trips, late nights in mangy clubs, lie-ins, or hitting up the gym whenever I feel like it. My 8 hour week of studying will eventually be replaced with the structure of an 8 hour working day, 5 days a week. My evenings and weekends will suddenly become increasingly valuable. I'll become more conscious about making plans that I actually want to fulfil, rather than just doing stuff to kill time. But until then, it's a state of limbo. Just going for a ride in my #limbozine.

It’s fair to say that applying for jobs is a pain in the hooha (apologies gentlemen readers). My father likes to remind me that when he was my age, he worked his socks off in the summer to earn his "beer money" and afford his social life. But lest we forget, this was the early 1980s, and in the US of A, so making a comparison seems frivolous. There was a time, too, when you could hire someone off the bat, or pull in a favour for a friend's kid. My grandfather received an offer from Cambridge, after a mere phone call between his school tutor and a college master at the university. Now the rigorous Oxbridge process is enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown. The youth of today is competing against a pool of increasingly qualified people. Saying “it’s hard” is an understatement.

What’s more - it’s a Catch-22. You can't get a job without experience, but you can't get experience without previous experience. But unless you plan on pulling this experience out of your arse, where on earth are you supposed to find it? And more often than not we’re forced into work experience and unpaid internships, just for CV bashing purposes, even if that means spending a month making tea and coffee for our colleagues, and doing random bits of admin that no-one else wants to do. But hey, at least you come out of it as a fully qualified hole-puncher. However, not everyone can afford to spend 3 months in London, unpaid. It requires the bank of Mummy and Daddy, or doting relatives to offer up the couch in their London pad. 

Maybe I’m just suffering from the rampant Generation Y disease known as cynicism, which is why I spend most of my precious time online, tweeting irrelevant remarks, complaining about the empty job market, and going overboard on the hashtags, just to spite people. ‘Cos you know, that’s how we value ourselves nowadays - on the number of likes, or followers, or whatnot. It amused me no end when I was babysitting 3 girls the other day and the eldest (at the youthful age of 11) boasted how she already had over 70 followers after a mere week of activating an Instagram account. When she discovered I had fewer followers and I’d been using Instagram for an entire year, I feared I wasn’t cool enough to hang around with someone of her Instaprowess. Meet “Generation Z” (those born mid 1990s-mid 2000s). They were practically born onto tablets. They were probably using wifi from within the womb. “Foetus is connecting to BT Womb-Hub 1234”. Username: Foetus, Password: Fallopian.

I’m bored. I think I’ll just take a #selfie, post it on Facebook, and pretend I lead an exciting life. And when I’m in Paris in a couple weeks, or travelling to SEA in September, I’ll post a daily #instatravel snap so you know how much fun I’m having. And if I end up in hospital with Malaria, I'll probably get the nurse to help me take a selfie, too (#nofilter). Just to prove how much of a badass I am. WAHOO #NDE. Have we become so obsessed with documenting our lives that we've entered a state of paralysis where we spend more time pausing for the camera, than going out and living life to the full? In a world desperately needing the youth to take on an active role, is it true that we'd rather take selfies with burning piers and dead bodies? We've also become painfully self-regarding, with an unruly tendency to splatter our innermost thoughts and feelings across social media. When is this going to stop? When will this no longer be "cool"?

To conclude. “I’m not a real person yet”, said Frances in Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, after her card got declined in a restaurant. And you know why she's not? Because she loved herself just a little too much. (Oh, and she happened to be virtually unemployed too...)