While the state of the world can feel as oppressive as a weighted blanket made of elephant shit and orphan tears, you can always rely on the younger generation to make you focus less on giving a shit through their natural 'ignorance is bliss' approach to daily life...
Contemplating doing something 'meaningful and lasting™' in my favourite coffee shop this Sunday was rudely interrupted by being forced to listen-in on the conversation of a pair of late twenty/early thirty somethings (I am guessing) - they were sat next to MY favourite table which I am trying to establish 'as my own' in some kind of resident artist way... without actually producing art of note but, that's beside the point. I can dream. Anyway. They were chatting back and forth in an earnest manner that made it hard to discern whether it was a job interview, friends catch-up or date. One (outdoorsy, tousled mountain bike type) seemed to be well-informed on the output of the other, seemingly keen to highlight their knowledge of the other's YouTube* output whenever possible. The other was modestly flattered and confirmed that 'yes, they had been told they looked a bit like Natalie Portman for their Star Wars stuff'. My attention was grabbed by the mention of the gorgeousness and heart-skip-a-beat beauty that is... Star Wars. I had to listen some more.
It was refreshing to listen to the free-flowing exchange of experiences gathered so far in their lives - Outdoorsy had volunteered and worked in Finland/Norway running Husky dog tours. YouTube impressionist/comedian had found it challenging filming in heat and under mask wearing rules for their BBC things. Youtube was "No way!" astonished at Outdoorsy photographer being able to see the Aurora Borealis here in Scotland. Both wore masks in public beyond the government mandated relaxation of mask-wearing rules in public until they felt nobody else was wearing them, so there wasn't any further medical need; both wistfully pondered that there were people that still hadn't had Covid or had only had it once, as if having it at least four times was the expected norm. When YouTube's father-in-law arrived to collect them five minutes after a telephone call despite Outdoorsy's hopeful recommendation that their conversation last another half an hour, the parting was a promise to talk to others and arrange a date to work on the thing. YouTubes's father-in-law remembered the Brazilian dancer Outdoorsy had performed music with at a Samba evening he attended which raised YouTube's eyebrows - Outdoorsy seems like the kind of guy who you wished you were, and should definitely be leading on *something* important, somehow, though he sounded like he wasn't sure what to do with all his experiences, though that is almost certainly unfair.
"My only hope is that the surface fears expressed for the world impact meaningfully on their political and social lives as Scottish and world citizens"
I know nothing of these people other than the experiences they were swapping during their networking, catch-up or whatever it was. My in-built "because I have been raised in Britain" class radar has obviously assigned certain characteristics to them that I am not stating here - I will leave you to decide your own context for their exchanges - but it was refreshing to hear a conversation devoid of concerns for any of the horrors going on in the world (fleeting reference to Canada wildfires, global warming and knowing a frozen Finnish lake is no longer safe to traverse when the first report of a ski-doo falling through are received aside). I tend to focus on the terror as I am always scanning the horizon and trying to prepare myself and my family for something that might happen and to a large extent, I wish I wasn't like that. It has its uses, but I have often been right in my predictions (also wrong!) and not being a good networker or self-promoter means that being proven correct doesn't gain any recognition while the mistakes linger as a reminder that you're not good enough. I am guilty of assuming everyone else is on my wavelength and find it difficult to comprehend that people don't see things the way I do. I don't know what that is, but it's infuriating.
Given my current listening and reading, the exchange between these youngsters might have reinforced my belief that there are generations so absorbed in their own stories and social media profiles that there is no hope for the future, but today I choose not to believe that. There was a beauty to hearing two young people, already with a wide range of experiences, putting themselves in challenging situations in different parts of the world and making their way in difficult times. They had opportunities provided through the internet I could only dream of when I was their age and are coping with pressures, such as cancel culture, that are much more instant, wide-ranging and persistent than the fear of forgetting to use deodorant one day at school and being called 'stinky pits' till another kid is caught eating sweets off the floor or being rumoured to be sexually promiscuous. My only hope is that their surface fears expressed for our world impact meaningfully on their political and social lives as Scottish and world citizens. I hope they help others have similar opportunities to them and use their experiences to tackle the pernicious and negative impacts on mental health that social media is creating in theirs and following generations.
Today I choose to take hope from the awkward 'is it networking, is it an awkward fan-appreciation-maybe-date-or-just-want-to-be-associated-with-admirable-talent' encounter. Today, I am going to try and focus more on my day-to-day and worry less about what might be. I'm going to lie on the baking hot sand of the little islands of contentment when I find them, listen to the metaphorical sea crashing on the shoreline and not worry about a potential tsunami because the sun is shining, I'm wearing factor fifty, and though I may be out of practice, I have not forgotten how to swim.
*I did manage to glean from the conversation who the actor/comedian/impressionist is, but I think discretion is the better part of valour.... or ear-wigging.