A friend called last week in some distress because she had received her millionth job rejection. Then I had lunch with someone who spent the entire meal agonising over whether they could afford to complete another unpaid internship.
Meanwhile, up in Sandringham, the Queen is to be found, pacing her sitting room, wondering whether or not she should ‘get with the times’ and agree to make a guest appearance on The Simpsons. It’s not exactly up there with Elizabeth I’s problems with the Spanish Armada, is it?
The news has been full recently of how terrible it is to be young these days; youth unemployment has sky-rocketed, graduates are leaving university in droves to fight for work at Poundland, the Eurozone is about to implode, and Kerry Katona is launching her eleventh come-back.
The trouble is that, after about four billion years of worrying about being stampeded by mammoths, dying from the plague, having your heart ripped out by religious zealots, and being bombed by the Germans, we’ve been left with an inability to stop worrying when actually everything is fine.
We worry today about our lack of tan and cellulite with the same intensity as people in 1665 worried about the Great Plague; it consumes our modern psyche to the degree that a whole industry has emerged out of our own unrelenting anxieties. For example, if I happen to be at the newsagents at the railway station, I can pretty much buy any magazine that takes my fancy, safe in the knowledge that each one will undoubtedly set off more worrisome thoughts about my ever-expanding thighs and general inadequacy as a female: Woman and Home. Home and Garden. Garden and Hair. Hair and Beauty. Beauty and Slimming. Slimming and Slimmers. Slim Women. Slim Home. Slim Garden. Slim Hair.
But today, for instance, I might still be unemployed and useless, but the sun is shining, the sky is a pleasing wintry blue, my friend is coming over for pizza later, and all the family and friends I know are well and safe. Yet I’m sitting here, worrying about how many people were murdered over the festive season. I’m also worried that my thighs are once again expanding, that Nigella Lawson may be turning into a man, that my dog has diabetes and it is a cardinal sin to consume non-organic milk and farmed salmon. And I don’t even read the Daily Mail.
I suppose it would be easy to say that I am someone with far too much time on my hands – not voluntarily – and all that I worry about still seems trivial and petty in light of some of the other terrible issues blighting this earth. Yet, I live in perpetual and selfish fear that I will never be able to realise any of my ambitions, not through lack of trying, but because of circumstances beyond my control.
I think receiving job rejection after job rejection has somewhat given me a skewed view of things. But, perhaps driven by a desperate need to console myself and my peers, I find myself thinking that in every single way, life at this precise second is better and more comfortable than at any time in the whole of human history.
I look at those people on Jeremy Kyle prattling on about their tormented, messed up love lives and I can’t help thinking: “Yes, it can’t have been nice to come home and find your son in women’s underwear, but not that long ago, you might have come home to find him impaled on the end of a mammoth’s tusk”.
Today, we have an army of psychologists, stress counsellors, psychoanalysts, newspaper columnists all telling us how cope with the pressures of modern life, reassuring us that life in the twenty-first century is more complicated and challenging than ever before, but it just isn’t.
By encouraging us to fret about expanding thighs and non-organic milk, the threat posed to mankind’s very existence by farmed salmon, Eurozone collapse, and needing a degree to work in Poundland, we’ll all be completely unprepared for the day when North Korea and Iran go back on the nuclear offensive, and the world goes pop. Now that would really be something to worry about; yes, life as the unemployed graduate is complete balls, but things will get better, eventually. In the mean time, at least a trip to the corner shop no longer leaves you fraught with the fear that you could be eaten by a mammoth.
BY SARAH BUCKLE