So… I wasn’t born entitled?

Today is 17th January, 2013 and what’s new in the UK? Four major High Street retailers have already gone into administration and, according to BBC Breakfast, the news reads pretty much the same as it did in 1983 – the main topics being unemployment, press intrusion and David Bowie’s new hit single.


With the fall of HMV, Blockbuster, Jessops and Comet, a combined total of 16,685 jobs are under threat and other High Street chains run the risk of following suit after losing a considerable amount of business to the online marketplace. How does this make me feel as a jobseeker? Pretty rubbish. 


What are my options? I’m a 24 year old graduate from the West Midlands. I’ve just arrived back in the UK after spending the last three years in Russia working as an English teacher and general Jack-of-all-trades-requiring-English-language. I have more debt than I could earn in a year and £3.50 in my back pocket. Being a Jack of all trades, I’ve mastered none and am qualified for few. I feel anxious. But luckily I am not alone.


According to statistics gathered in a 2007 survey conducted by MIND, 9.7% of people in England suffer with mixed anxiety and depression, while 4.7% suffer with generalised anxiety disorder. 


A more recent study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicated that 75.9% of people aged 16+ rated their overall ‘life satisfaction’ as 7 or more (7 being Medium and 9 being High) with the average falling at 7.4. This compares with 80% of people who gave a rating of 7 or more when asked whether they felt the things they did in their lives were ‘worthwhile’. 

 

71% of participants said that they were happy yesterday, which is great, but this was almost on par with the number of people who said that they had felt anxious – a whopping 60.1%.


Of course, these statistics come off the back of a major decline that occurred in 2009-10. No prizes for guessing the probable cause: the 2008 recession. Guardian analysts suppose that this indicates that “a better economy is often a happier one”*. Rightly so, but why does our happiness have to depend on our economy? 


Despite the recession, there is not much that is lacking in the majority of people’s lives in the UK as long as they’re employed. We have expendable cash, the ability to travel, fresh food, free healthcare (although the fees for a visit to the dentist are a joke), access to some of the best universities in the world and the benefits of world-class research, free-range eggs, Cadbury’s chocolate, a decent primary and secondary education system, Benefits (although not for much longer perhaps), and more besides. What is it exactly that we’re lacking? 


My primary concern at the moment is that the economy is not sustainable and, since it’s been proven above that this has a massive impact on my personal well-being, neither is my mental health, and I for one do not want to spend the rest of my adult life struggling with anxiety over my tax returns.


The UK is a consumerist society and relies heavily on people buying things (in-store and online). On Monday night, I went round to my dad’s to find him buying a fridge-freezer because his had broken down and it would’ve have cost £150 to repair it, giving it a renewed lifespan of 2-3 years, and only £150 more to buy a new one that would last longer. 


Our general preference in the UK is to buy new things instead of repairing old, and our economy relies on it which is fine, but this attitude towards money is then extended further and seen perhaps in the decline of a “career for life” or in growing divorce rates. We are fairly non-committal in our attitudes and it’s absolutely understandable why. With a recession predicted to happen every decade or every 20 years and the situation we’re in now where it’s difficult to imagine a life without another dip in the current recession, how could we responsibly commit to anything and what could we possibly commit ourselves to? Is there anything in our lives that escapes the impact of recession? This is a serious question, I’d be interested to know what you think. 


What are my options really? Do I a) join the rat race and risk a life of unfulfillment and permanent fear of redundancy having remortgaged more than my pension and having little or no equity elsewhere; b) resign myself to a quiet life with a small mortgage and a 9-5 job that might bore me witless but would ultimately allow me to not worry about these problems; or c) look for another option that would allow me to live well enough, to contribute meaningfully to the world around me and to create a more sustainable environment for my children and theirs?  


Perhaps there are more options available, but I think, in terms of commitment, I’ll go for the latter and, of course, the options here are limitless. Do I go abroad? I’ve tried Russia, what about China? What about options in the UK? There’s the Iona community in Scotland – I’m not really that Christian but why not give it a go? Should I become a Buddhist? Should I become a Communist? I blatantly don’t have enough money to be a philanthropist. Should I look for a life that incorporates all of these -ists and, if so, where can I find it?  


What should I do next? I am open to all options, however fanciful, but will reiterate that I only have £3.50 in my back pocket, very few applicable skills and a hoard of debt behind me. Any help you could give would be much appreciated.

 

Also, if you have found yourself in a similar position, I would LOVE to hear about it! Add me on Facebook or email ciara.bartlam@gmail.com

 

Ciara-x-

Ciara
*http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/nov/20/happiness-index-anxiety-satisfaction-uk

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