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time and timing

22 Sep

These thoughts and these words have been floating around in my head for a few months now, but I have been waiting to write them. I am not sure why exactly, perhaps to soak up exactly what it is that I have been feeling so strongly. This is what it boils down to: time and timing, both, and how lucky I have been this year for these two things to collide for me.

I have had months and months of time with my family and friends, the opportunity to re-connect in old ways and connect over new ones. And I have had the right timing to do so, but also the right circumstances, for which I only have the universe to thank for. One tiny example is that of my best friend from high school moving back to the Emirates over the same time period as me, to a neighbourhood new to us both but to a city that we left in 2003. There have been many more serendipitous ‘collisions’ such as this one and I have brought many of my ‘pieces‘ together (the Middle-East during an Arab Spring no less, Mauritania and my father, French and my childhood friends, my mother and her gentleness). Full and complete.

Now, it is time to leave. I am getting on a plane tonight and moving to a country in Central-West Africa that I have never been to before but that holds some of the ‘pieces’ I mention above (Fulani language/culture, the opportunity to speak French daily) and I am hopeful it will bring me new growth and challenges. I am moving in with a man, which is a big step for me romantically, and something that I have not yet attempted at the age of 26. Along with the hopes, I have my fair share of doubts and questions, but I would rather have those than regrets.

Here comes change!

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Now

1 Apr

12 months ago, I was in London maniacally preparing for a work trip to India and Nepal. This was how I spent my April: spending time with an organisation working with deaf-blind children in rural Gujurat;, visiting the biggest red light districts in Mumbai; celebrating Nepali New Year (2067!) in the pure mountain air of Pokhara where street children as young as 6 stick their heads in plastic bags to sniff glue.
Over the course of three weeks, I was inspired, challenged, and humbled. And I still haven’t found adequate words to describe the Mumbai brothels I entered in particular, or the energetic children (they are just children) whose mothers work in them.

This was the first of intense work trips for me in 2010. I returned to India and Nepal to visit NGOs, as well as Bangladesh and Cambodia in August. In terms of personal travel, I had the most beautiful romantic time in the south of France and Italy. And in June, my love and I broke up, in Australia of all places. I escaped to Switzerland in November to visit some close friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. 10 countries in 2010.

I ended the year in a state of exhaustion- a tiredness that was partly physical, but mainly wearing in emotional and mental ways. All this to say, I took a huge decision, to leave my job after 3 years in an organisation which had been so good to me, and move in with my parents for a few months for the first since I left home in 2003. This was a simple choice in many ways, that of spending quality time with my parents, both of whom I enjoy being around, in the sunshine of the Middle-East where I grew up. But I was still terrified. I have been very goal-oriented over the last few years, and as I was ringing in the New Year in January, one of my first thoughts was, ‘Now what?’
So I have worked hard to remove the ‘what’ from that question, and just bring the ‘now’ to the centre, closer and closer. I have been able to take a step back and appreciate things for what they are. To focus on personal relationships, to reconnect with my parents as an adult, to make time for friends. I feel rested and stronger. My brain has reassessed certain experiences and made healthy space for some new ones. Some things I will process for a long time, some images I will keep with me, and that is okay too.

This has turned out to be a transitional time, one that I connect a bit with ‘coming of age’, which I know is traditionally associated with a young person’s transition to adulthood but which I now feel people go through at different points throughout life. Perhaps that is why it is a theme that is come up in all of the books I have read since the start of the year (more detailed post about the first few just below).
In all of these books, as different as they are, I have connected with the ideas of growing, questioning, longing, adapting, changing. All characters seem to be questioning their life, finding themselves in situations they might not have prepared for, eventually changing in ways they might not have predicted. I suspect this might be me projecting a little, an Anais Nin case of ‘we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are’. How do you see things right now and are you happy with what you are seeing?

Unemployment and identity

16 Oct

Young people are the same the world over, full of contradictions. Bursting with dreams and desires, endless possibilities, the feeling of being up against the world; a feeling that is as empowering as it is limiting. But I have noticed a perception that is particular to people of my generation, a sort of insecurity that is emerging.

We briefly experienced a time of prosperity and opportunity in the UK (and indeed Europe), of 100% mortgages and loans, entitling citizens to whatever they set their eyes on. We then were a part of what followed: ‘boom’, ‘bust’, ‘crunch’, the collapse of a system. People who had been fortunate enough to get jobs before this were now at risk of losing them, and what was once within our reach – property, presumed progress up the career ladder- no longer could be taken for granted. The result of the UK elections in May this year, ousting Labour and replacing it with a Lib-Dem/Tory coalition, was a reflection of how people felt: distrustful, betrayed, and fundamentally, divided.

When I talk to friends and acquaintances of my age, it is a feeling of instability that I come away with. It seems that there is almost an expectation of having to be prepared for the worst, of not knowing what we are going to lose next. Every day, in every paper, there is a twist on a story that tells us that we are ‘the first generation that can expect a lesser quality of life than that of our parents’. At a house party last July, I had a conversation with a family-man twice my age with two young daughters. He had waited to have them, mainly for financial reasons, but explained,  ‘People your age, you’ll never be able to afford the house before the kids. You’re going to have to do things differently- the kids before the house.’

As things develop and more cuts are announced, it is clear that things are going to change quite drastically. David Cameron, our leader, tells us that he will ‘make it more beneficial for people to be in work than out of it’ and by this he means that the benefit system will be stripped down in such a way that it will be impossible for the jobless to merely survive as they have done. With job cuts occurring on a huge scale, every day, it doesn’t look like it will be a case of more employment being available. However much this alarms me, I know that things as they are have been far from perfect, and that it will take so much for things to change- for the entitled to be stripped of entitlement, and for the disadvantaged to gain both socially and economically. My friend works for a government entity, with many of her clients single parents, and she told me, ‘It is hard convincing a single mum to go out there and work for £80.00 more a week. At the end of the day, she is poor without it, but the sad truth is that even with that added amount, she will remain so. She will still be poor.’ I am not sure what it will take for the balance to tip, in a country such as this, where class is so ingrained in the history, culture, and educational system.

I actually had hopes for the economical downfall. I thought it had the potential to bring people together, of creating a sort of inter-dependency, building on community and kinship rather than on the state. I wonder if this is something that is yet to come out of it, as it becomes more and more clear that the benefit system does not intend to assist people as it has done.

On a bigger scale, I wonder about the roles that people are squeezed into.  As people become more redundant in the work-force, as societal roles become less rigid, what crises of identity will follow?