Seriously. If you’re 20-something with a small savings, a HECs debt that’s not about to bother you and a dozen spare couches around the world from Facebook friends whose last names you’re unlikely to remember because they’ve changed their display name to Zozo Pozo, then the world is your oyster. Whether you like seafood or not.
You’re expected to take goofy pictures holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, do a star jump at the sun gate overlooking Machu Picchu, or be inappropriate in front of an erotic statue. You get a taste of snow in winter and complain about slipping on the black ice before posting a photo on Facebook of you and the giant snowman you built the very next day before going inside to eat lots of cheese. You casually brag that you walked past Sienna Miller on your way out of the Wolseley having high tea. You sleep at the airport and eat crackers for dinner as a ‘growing’ experience and to save money on a night’s accommodation to find you have the best night in a long time.
Yeah, ok, these were all pretty cool and definitely made it to the scrap book.
But I don’t remember putting on Facebook the week I had gastro, back pain and a migraine that lasted three days straight and there was no one to look after me or point me to the nearest GP. Or point out that you need to be registered at a GP before they can even see you. Or the time I hadn’t seen the sun for almost a month in November, at the beginning of my first harsh London winter, and I got so depressed I almost booked a flight home on the spot. Or the many times I received emails from friends who got married, separated, fell seriously ill, lost family members. Those were the hardest times where I felt most helpless and useless and distant.
And then there are the occasions where you could be standing somewhere magnificent, breathtaking, and all your instincts tell you to breathe in this moment and get lost in the euphoria. But all you can muster is a sense of underwhelm or, worse, indifference. No disrespect to Majorca. It’s not you, it’s me. When you catch yourself thinking a little too much, or just enough, why you’re even here? What’s the point of it all? What are you trying to find and can it be found inside a gelati cone?
You go to work and you leave. You battle the London Tube. You make 12 pounds an hour. Less than half of what you would back home. You decide whether to buy the cheaper milk or the cheaper cleaning detergent or the cheaper both and a bottle of Tesco wine. You sit on the couch with your housemate watching the fourth episode of Come Dine With Me in a row surrounded by filth because your other housemate is a dirty boy who leaves his shit everywhere and draws the occasional penis on things. Which is excusable because the fourth one picks his nose and leaves his nail clippings by the couch for you to discover.
Sometimes we forget to report on the ordinary. Mothers do it all the time. ‘Look! Little Timmy is watching a pigeon. Here’s an album with 60 photos and a video I uploaded to YouTube.’ And worse, we feel we can’t talk about the shit parts. Not when we’re overseas and supposedly having fun fun fun. But that just means the next person feels the added pressure of having the time of their fucking lives and any departure from that, even momentarily, is something to be ashamed of and hidden. Not true. Everyone is human and everyone’s lives are a bit messy. No matter where you are in the world, you’re allowed to – and expected to – have highs and lows and fun bits and sad bits and moments where you might question your very existence. If something really doesn’t feel right, move on, make a change. But if you’re just not in a constant state of appreciation and joy, well, take comfort in knowing that you’re probably just like everyone else who’s slept on that bunk bed before you. You’re normal.