I don’t want to live like my parents

I don’t want to live like my parents. In the last few years, I have seen a rise in a kind of nostalgia for a time before the new millennia that arises from people my generation and older which I am, to say the least, very suspicious of. We know that the romanticization of the past doesn’t usually bring positive things to society and I am afraid that this old-timey discourse can be dangerous if taken too far. Analyzing the past is essential to understanding our present and building our future, but it is important to employ a critical approach without selectively picking those aspects that fit the narrative we want to prove. That’s ideological bias, and it has existed throughout our entire human history. None of us is free from it, but we need to do a deep, critical exercise before we venture into idealizing the past, overlooking all the factors that played a part.

I guess I have always worried about the future. Photo of me in 1992

I don’t want to live like my parents. I was born in Spain in 1990, growing up through that “golden” age some people romanticize now. And I could be one of them due to the socioeconomic factors that applied to the family: a middle-class, classic family structure with both parents who graduated from university and worked as nurses for the Spanish public health system, which meant them having a fixed contract ensuring job stability so they never had to worry, a big apartment at the city center in which each of us had our own room —we were three siblings—, the financial stability to allow for nannies to take care of us when my parents were at work, a highly-regarded Catholic school education within a 5 minutes walking distance from home, and basically never experiencing any relevant issue regarding money. So you could say that, because I grew up with all my material conditions met, I should look back at that time and think how great it was and how shitty our materiality is today.

I don’t want to live like my parents. Because underneath that beautiful layer of middle-class paradise laid a big problem. A traumatized generation who still believes mental illness is just an excuse, a bogus. It’s not real and it has no real consequences. They think of someone with depression — like myself — as weak, attention-seekers, immature individuals who are just selfish and lazy. We are the “glass generation” because we do not tolerate jokes on fat people, on gays, on trans people, on disabled people, on women. They cannot make jokes anymore. And the worst is that some of the people who defend and romanticize a “better” time use as a justification for that behavior that it is just a product of the mentality of that period, it is “who they are”. Alright, fine, but that should never be an excuse to not evolve and adapt to the society in which we are now. And yes, we have to judge past behavior through the lens of today.

I don’t want to live like my parents. I have no interest in working for the government or public administration just because it's stable. I also don’t want to be stuck in a job that makes me miserable just because “it is what it is” to then vent my frustrations behind the closed doors of my wonderful middle-class home. However, I find myself thinking if I feel this way because right now it is almost impossible to match their life opportunities due to the changes in society or because I refuse to romanticize and feel nostalgic for a time in which progress only meant having a job, a family and a house without caring about the rights and lives of others who were refused a place in that ideal life. They have always existed regardless of not being visible to the upper classes, and now we can finally see them — or maybe we are just starting to pay attention — only because we are also suffering the consequences of our ignorance.

I don’t want to live like my parents. In a time of intense homophobia, class division, pathological misogyny and sexism, the fact that “job security” was more certain than it is now doesn’t make it a society worth romanticizing or recovering. It just manifests how ignorant we were as a society of the problems and social injustices that did not affect us as far as we belonged to the normative standards. Anything that happened to exist outside the “norm” was not a concern. It didn’t exist. And if you suffered some form of discrimination it was because you wanted. Don’t be gay, don’t be poor, don’t be trans, don’t be fat, don’t be an independent woman, don’t be a person of color, don’t be different. There was not a collective kindness, just plain individualism from those who were at the top or just comfortable traditional middle class.

I don’t want to live like my parents. That doesn’t mean I don’t want the aforementioned job security we lack today. It is a real issue that increases mental health-related illnesses such as anxiety and depression. But I think we are barking at the wrong tree. The causes of job insecurity that have been enhanced by the pandemic were there before, and they have been developing silently for a long time. And it all started during that “golden” age they love so much now. It is systemic. And that system is capitalism. Capitalism is not an ethereal entity, an unconscious being nor something untouchable. Capitalism is run by real people, who make real decisions under its name that affect all of us. The fact that we believe the golden age was so great and perfect is because it was an illusion, shattered unexpectedly by the financial crisis of 2008. The new millennia is not the issue, nor the advancement in social rights for oppressed minorities: it is the system. And the failure to see it has a name: privilege.

I don’t want to live like my parents. I don’t see how just because someone has job security can ignore the reasons that brought them there, forgetting about everyone else who does not have the privilege to achieve that position. Meritocracy they call it. I call it something that I would probably get censored for if I wrote it. We have been brainwashed to believe that if we are poor is because we deserve it, we haven’t put enough effort, we are just not meant to climb the class ladder. This was the mentality of that golden age they so desperately want to return to. It’s a matter of keeping the privilege they undeservedly enjoyed without being questioned. I don’t want to go back to a world where the privileged always wins. Enough is enough.

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Photographer, writer, and artist trying to understand the world

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Ana F. Martín

Ana F. Martín

Photographer, writer, and artist trying to understand the world

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