This month I turned 29 – yes, I’m shouting it loud and proud because for me age is only a number. There are 30-year-olds who act like they’re 60 and 60-year-olds who live every moment to the max. But one birthday ‘greeting’ from a friend made me wonder. It read “enjoy the last year of your 20s” – and it suddenly struck me – I’m going to be 30 soon. When my parents were the same age they’d achieved so much in life. Where did I fall short?
By the age of 29; my parents had immigrated to the UK (in my dad’s case this was the third country he had settled in), they had married, bought a home, established a family business and had two children…wow! And they hadn’t relied on their parents to secure a foundation. In fact, my dad had immigrated to the UK, alone, aged 16. He studied and juggled two jobs to save enough for the rest of the family to move to the UK. I remember listening in awe to his stories about how he co-habited and his kitchen was literally a Bunsen burner. After studying and working all hours God sent, he didn’t really have time for a social life.
This could not be more different to my life today. For me, ‘work’ is not a means to save money for any dependents but to enjoy life. I do my job because I have a passion for journalism, not because I need a job. Thank God I have no kids to deal with just yet (!) so travelling, socialising, hosting, shopping, dining, pampering, entertainment – this is what my money is predominately invested in. Of course I save but nowhere near as much as I could if I restricted myself from these luxuries.
And that’s the key – these are luxuries. They are added benefits of life that I can survive without but have enriched my life with experiences, memories, people and places that would not have been possible if I had lived the life my parents did.
I am able to live the life I have today because of the sacrifices they made. I don’t need to worry about saving for a house (although I should seriously start considering it as an investment!) and although I’ve been working since aged 17, it wasn’t a necessity – I didn’t have to finance the food on my plate or roof over my head. So my earnings have been free to fund my lifestyle, my choices, my experiences – which I would never change for the world.
I know that sounds very selfish. I’ve just realised how many times I’ve used ‘my’ in the last sentence. Is my generation selfish? Are we obsessed with our lives and dreams and don’t even think about enriching the lives of those around us? Having said that; I contribute at home but don’t see it as a duty and it’s definitely not expected for me to pay for anything at home. Maybe it’s my parents’ influence that has shaped this voluntary action, and I know many people my age who live at home and make a significant contribution to the household – but it’s nothing in comparison to what our parents did at our age.
And boy do we contrast to our parents’ generation who migrated to the UK with a few pounds in their pocket and an ambitious heart. They made their dreams come true. They became homeowners and many established businesses educated their children and gave us amazing childhoods – can my peers aspire to do the same on their own accord?
I know I’m not your average British Asian 29-year-old. There are many out there who thought practically and invested everything into savings/property, and so on. Others have been more reckless and have lived an adventurous life without a penny to their name. But regardless of how hardworking you are, or how much you earn or how well you save; being a homeowner alone, let alone a business owner, is only but a dream for many people my age. Some have beaten the odds and established themselves – kudos to them! But would that be possible without your parents? Our parents managed to do everything on their own merit. Not all of us could say the same. The housing market, interest rates and inflation are not in our favour either.
This train of thought may not make sense but I hope its thought-provoking and makes you appreciate the hard work, sacrifices and tenacity that our parents displayed at our age, thanks to which we have had comparatively smooth sailing into adulthood.
Thanks mum and dad. I may never achieve as much as you both have but you have given me the motivation to aspire to your successes.