There’s a new person in the coffee shop today. A girl, short and slightly curvy, is standing in line behind the usual row of businessmen. She stands out: bright yellow, frizzy hair that looks like a permanent explosion on her head. A large, loose red cardigan over a white gauzy blouse and jeans. She’s awake, alert, her eyes are shifting everywhere, flitting from movement to movement, from face to face; like a butterfly looking for nectar.
She positively oozes youth, drawing glances like moths to a flame. She is instantly despised; no one likes a reminder of what they’ve lost, what they’ve wasted. She is a bright flame among ashes, a growing flower among sun burnt grass.
I was her, once. Young, fresh. I had dreams, aspirations; I was going to change the world. I would be the firebrand that lit humanity in a blaze of reason, of clarity, of peace. You burn brightest when you’re young. But eventually reality set in. I was shunted, like the rest, into the monotony of the skyscrapers, the greys and whites and blacks that are the uniform for those of us who couldn’t or didn’t follow our dreams: we are the ‘successful’ ones. The dead ones.
We are praised for our soullessness, mind. We get promotions, bonuses, the white picket fences. We get the capitalist dream. It’s boring, predictable, ordinary. And safe. But what about our dreams? Instead of saving the world we become part of the machine that slowly destroys it. Instead of creating music and art we leave voicemails and scribble memos. We don’t contribute to the world, or to humanity. We take away from it, and we never even think about giving back. All the mindless, generic drones in their smart blazers and pencil skirts and heels, what is the point of us?
Do we really want a world of glass and steel? I know that’s what the corporate world portrays as progress, the future: a planet covered in grey, white and black. Covered in shining windows and needle-like spires and money. But who is the corporate world? The majority of people don’t want to be here: they hate their jobs, they show up exhausted every morning. People burn themselves out, and for what? So that their children can do the same all over again?
Follow your dreams, they say. But only if the world approves.