By Monty, a British student.
My South African grandmother once told me “I don’t envy your choices”. A statement rarely considered nowadays, as my 21-year-old-self taps on her laptop in the centre of London, one tab open on Skyscanner.net with the flight destination set to ‘anywhere’, one tab open on cheap Eurostar tickets, and one tab open on BBC news (no prizes for guessing the headline there).
It appears to be a row of tabs that is becoming more and more contradictory for every extra day that I continue to browse; I’m under the illusion that, as I become more and more independent, my choices are growing, whereas in reality they are under threat.
My grandmother evidently finds my world of choice overwhelming, most-likely due to growing up in an era that did not allow for worldwide travel and in country that did not allow her to move so liberally.
She views my world of choice not as a buffet of opportunity but as a perpetual path of heartbreak and indecision. Where shall I live? Where shall I work? Where shall I raise a family? She may be the first person in my life who has ever offered an opinion contrary to “the world is your oyster” or “you’re so lucky to have the world at your feet”.
It makes me wonder whether sitting in a world not limited by geography really is what it cracks up to be. Whether if we were just given one set-menu instead of a buffet of choice, we’d be any happier?
It’s a question I have been asking myself more and more of late, as I continue to chuck belongings into a rucksack on a Friday night for a weekend in Amsterdam, or Paris, or Greece, saving frugally during the week so I can spend a weekend away before returning to work on Monday morning.
It makes me want to yell with desperation
My life is a series of overnight trains, Ryanair’s charming delays, running to catch buses, plenty of hellos and just as many goodbyes, and a perpetual sense of rushing from place to place. It makes it easier and easier to join my grandmother’s way of thinking. That perhaps rooting oneself in one’s own country could foster more joy than expected.
Yet, as I sat on Athens’ airport floor a few weeks ago, heart heavy having just said yet another goodbye to another loved one and even heavier when the “delayed” notice appeared so subtly, I was reminded of just what a spectacular process I was embarking on. As one guy next to me so perfectly pointed out, “it used to take them years to swim this”.
Not only was I about to get onto a 3.5 hour flight with just a small rucksack and hurtle 50,000 ft in the air in a glorified tin can, but when I landed I was about to scan my passport in a machine, as if I was getting onto the underground, and within an hour be tucked up in bed. And this process is repeated, when I visit my best girlfriend in Amsterdam, or when I catch up with mates in Paris.
True, it comes with goodbyes and suitcases and delays, but it comes with utter joy and, if I think about it, truly think about it, a complete sense of astonishment. The brilliant human mind has enabled me to think of spending the night in Holland as the equivalent of travelling to Newcastle. What’s more, the passion, progressiveness and foresight of that same human mind has enabled me to do it without restriction.
My family, friends and professional acquaintances now live all over Europe. They have been collected anywhere in between my first 17-year-old Interrail adventure, to my internship at one of the world’s top consumer goods’ companies, to my year abroad in Cape Town.
They will provide me with opportunity, support and love for the rest of my life and the idea that I would have to fill out a form weeks in advance just to have access to them, fills me with resentment. It makes me want to yell with desperation and cry with despair. It is only now that I realise the complete privilege I have had regarding my boundaryless approach to the world, and how it has been so taken for granted that a few Ryanair delays can tempt me to consider such an approach not existing. It requires a shift in perspective, to consider what I really value, and to fight for it as hard as I can.
So no, Granny, as much as I love you, I cannot agree with you. Please envy my choices, envy my complete freedom to wander, to make lifelong connections and to better myself personally and professionally. Envy my choices and help me fight for the right to keep them.
Our Future, Our Choice
If you would like to follow a young person’s campaign against Brexit, you might wish to check out OFOC – Our Future, Our Choice
They run fantastic social media campaigns with a constant stream of valuable information about the European Union and the cost of leaving it.
— Our Future, Our Choice (@OFOCBrexit) August 21, 2019