It's a particularly difficult new year for the young. My advice? Keep up the slog

The pressures on young people today are immense, and few if any have a 'masterplan'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

January, such an odd month. In addition to the literal and metaphorical hangovers, resolution and reflection are inescapable. I may have failed to grasp a clear understanding of the former, given that the only thing I have given up is my gym membership.

However, reflection is all around. I’ve lost count of the number of people with whom I’ve embarked on what my cruel daughters dismiss blithely as a ‘DMC’ (deep and meaningful conversation) already. And that’s without even knowing anyone embarking on a new-year separation.

Instead, it is young people, relatives and others, who are seeking guidance like never before. It’s not surprising, given the extraordinary pressure on them to know what the hell they want from life, and fast: GCSEs, A-Levels, university, career, property ladder, relationships - it feels to them like they need a masterplan; that without it, there is a gaping, scary void. Worst of all, everyone else appears to have that masterplan.

In truth, few of us had such a plan in our youth. Most still don’t today. The majority just muddle through, occasionally grasping at opportunities, sometimes failing to see them staring us in the face. However, this seems such an unsatisfactory answer to give a bright-eyed teenager, or an anxious student contemplating the end of the education cocoon.

Did you have life sorted early on? I certainly didn’t. I was lucky enough to love something passionately – English – and know vaguely that I might want to be a journalist, but I didn’t know any journalists and hadn’t the faintest clue as to how to go about being one. I also grew up on a south London council estate where my family didn’t have any ‘contacts’ – unless I wanted to go into the ice cream trade.

So many are in a similar situation, today. So few have a clue as to what they want to do, or perhaps some have a little dream, secret or otherwise, but don’t know how to pursue it. For what it’s worth, I believe you have to  pursue that dream if you have it, because one day, for sure, you will regret not trying. Plus, it’s so much easier to find about the unknown or the hidden today, thanks to the great democratization that technology has brought, particularly Google.

The other truth, perhaps the greatest truism in life, is that in the absence of being born with that silver spoon, you create your own luck, and the harder you work, the more lucky you are likely to become. There is simply no substitute for doing the doing: grab hold of any and every bit of work experience you can, and follow up on every lead. Oh, and don’t get beaten down by the inevitable rejections.

The only other bit of advice I can usefully give is: don’t worry about everyone else. Beneath their bravado or simple good fortune, they are as anxious and muddled as you. Honestly. And so, to relationships? Um, er, that’s next week’s column…

Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London