The Sweetness of Doing Nothing
It’s hard to beat a glorious English summer’s day. There’s something ancient about them, they remind me of the summers that happen in books. Everything is green, everyone’s smiling and almost everyone you know is at the pub.
There is no denying that my generation faces unique challenges (let’s not pretend that this heatwave isn’t caused by global warming.) The economy is in shambles and unless I marry someone very rich I doubt I’ll ever be able to buy a house. Job security is a rose tinted mirage of the past. Our parents grew up with the not unreasonable expectation that they would get married, own property and have decent jobs until they retired.
Of course, they faced their own set of challenges. My mum, one of the most intelligent women I know, didn’t go to university. It just simply wasn’t an option for her. But our generation is collapsing under the pressure to succeed, with all the foundations for achievement eroding from beneath our feet.
Working hard is actively glamourized in a way that seems to ignore that for many, working 60-hour weeks is a matter of survival. Forbes calling Kylie Jenner a ‘self-made woman’ is basically satirical comedy and sets standards of achievement that are impossible to meet. And while I think that encouraging young women to push themselves professionally and academically can only be a good thing, financial success is not the ultimate pinnacle of human experience.
I’m at risk of sounding cliché here, but weather like this reminds me of the importance of relaxation. The importance of doing nothing but thinking about everything. Women juggle a myriad of different responsibilities. We perform emotional labour for grown men (darling, did you mail your mum’s birthday card yet?) We work, we get degrees, we spend about half an hour a day on meeting patriarchal beauty standards. I love being busy. Anyone who knows me well will attest that I never seem to get tired and I run around happily, a coffee in one hand and a book in the other.
But I am tired. Surely we all are. Especially now, existing in a reality that seems slippery somehow, as people like Trump take it upon themselves to gaslight the entire world.
It can seem almost criminal to spend a couple of days or weeks unwinding. Unpaid internships lurk just out of sight, tempting you with coffees yet to be made and new, uncomfortable shoes yet to be worn in. So far, my early twenties have been insane. I feel like I’m just pretending to be grown up, and the onslaught of disillusionment is exhausting. I’m not egotistical enough to think that’s specific to me, I think none of us really know what we’re doing.
I’m a big believer in signs, and maybe the sunshine should be taken as one. Take a chair out into the garden and pour yourself a drink. Think about some things you haven’t been allowing yourself to. Read your old favourite books and remember who you were before you were outraged at the world, or frustrated by how nothing ever seems easy anymore.