Next Steps: Surviving the Future Gaze

It’s that time of year again. Temperatures have dropped to the point where I’m surprised on a daily basis not to see a lone polar bear or two shuffling down Byres road – God knows with all that Arctic ice melting at such an alarming rate they could use a new home. The library is full to bursting with sallow faced, sleep deprived students preparing for the December exam period and dissertation deadlines, and every high street shop is now practically projectile vomiting Christmas merchandise into the face of any unsuspecting customer that walks through their door. Tis’ the season of overdrafts and extreme caffeination.

With December just around the corner and Christmas looming on the oh-shit-I-haven’t-sorted-any-of-my-presents-yet horizon, the New Year will imminently be upon us. As 2016 draws to a close, it will soon be time to indulge in the obligatory end of year reflective mindset, where we ask ourselves what did I achieve this year? My personal repertoire consists of a Netflix binge personal best from watching the entirety of Stranger Things in one sitting, a fledgling mastery of the art of Tinder dating, and some not-terrible university grades. Not bad for a year’s work.

Following said period of reflection comes the ambitious stage of New Year’s resolutions and general future planning. Pledges to actually use that gym membership that mysteriously drains your bank account every month without automatically providing you with washboard abs and a hearty dose of self-worth, or the instigation of a radical lifestyle change. Veganism? It can’t be that difficult! Quitting drinking? Hang on a second… let’s be realistic here.

The future can be an exciting thing to contemplate, especially for those of us about to embark on a transitional journey such as graduating. However, it can also seem daunting and, it would seem ever more recently, a bit depressing. Following the maelstrom of nonsense that has occurred on both sides of the Atlantic as of late, it is difficult not to feel progressively more disenchanted as a young person. An increasingly ageing population means that political parties are leaning towards favouring older voters’ interests, leaving younger generations feeling disconnected and silenced. University tuition fees continue to rise, whilst getting a foot on the property ladder remains ever more difficult for first time buyers. Indeed, a recent report indicated that up to a quarter of young people are refused treatment upon seeking mental health support due to lacking resources. As a soon-to-be university graduate tentatively stepping into the job market for the first time, it can overwhelmingly feel like the odds of success are stacked vehemently against you.

Such a precarious modern day global climate appears to incite endless division and intolerance; it is no wonder that young people appear to grow ever more disillusioned with our hegemonic political powers. Yet, fundamentally, this period of turbulence can be viewed as an opportunity. Through all the news stories that make one want to question the very depths of hell from whence such characters as Nigel Farage came, there are tales of young people around the world endeavouring to create a more just and progressive future for themselves. From the group of youth plaintiffs suing the US government for their apathetic approach to tackling climate change and preserving the environment for future generations, to youth-organised protests against the limitations of a hard Brexit and the regressive discourse spouted by president-elect Trump, young people are increasingly calling bullshit on the powers that be and the various constraints that are being piled onto their future aspirations.

So, in entering 2017, it is pertinent to remain optimistic and to remember that – particularly for us fortunate folk here in Scotland – we are the agents of our own futures. Looking to prospective paths beyond university presents only opportunity (I know the graduation anxiety is telling you otherwise and attempting to convince you that I’m a raging, spiteful liar. I promise I’m not – pinky promise). Indeed, even university itself provides a wealth of positive challenges that can help shape your deciding where you want to go next.

Sometimes it’s hard to maintain the optimism: particularly when you have an obscene number of deadlines staring you aggressively in the face, a raging cold giving you an alluring glow akin to Rudolph the reindeer, and no idea if you’ll be able to blow off some steam with an interrailing trip next summer because a bunch of xenophobic oldies may have jeopardised your EU passport for you. Just remember – everything will be okay. The leader of the Free World has zero political experience and embodies the caricature of a biopunk-esque experiment whereby the genetic modification of a tangerine has gone horribly wrong. Comparatively? You’ll be just fine.

[Annie Milburn]

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