My dear Rebecca,
I know, that is the way that our mother used to write to us when we were at boarding school. I’m seventy-four, so I feel rather motherly towards you, my younger, thirty-eight-year-self. I know you’ll indulge me.
I’d ask how you are, but of course, I know, and that’s the reason I’m writing. Despite your contentedness with your personal life, I know you worry about the future. You worry about the kind of world your children are going to live in. You’ve read so many articles and books which talk about how 2050 is the year that either makes us or breaks us, that you can’t imagine human life continuing beyond that point. You’re concerned, you feel frustrated, you want reassurance that everything is going to be alright.
I can offer that reassurance. Everything is going to be alright. But sometimes things may get worse before they get better, and you need to realise that, too. We tend to be somewhat impatient, you and I. We see a problem and we want for people to get on with fixing it, without spending decades talking about it. I know you feel that way about the environment, about feminism, about social justice. While it might seem condescending of me, I’m allowed to be, so let me tell you quite frankly: relax.
You do have a right to feel some irritation at these issues. Of course you do. But know that the tipping point is coming—with regards to climate change? Just look at how much of a part of the daily conversation that is these days. It’s on the world political agenda. For goodness’ sake (yes, I’m allowed to say things like that, I’m at that age), China is even taking steps, albeit very small ones, to mitigate their impact on the planet. I know you think it’s been such a long time coming, and that there is so much further to go, and you’re right. But believe me, change is going to start taking place very soon, and it’s going to be huge. Give it five years, and you will be amazed. Really.
And the same can be said about feminism. You worry at the way it seems to be splintering, you worry about the fighting between and within factions. You see the way that women are arguing amongst themselves, and all you want is for them to get along, to be able to see a common cause and join together in solidarity to change the status quo. Two things about this. One: your uneasiness about this comes partly from your own fear of confrontation. We do get over that, but it takes a while, so don’t pay it too much attention. Two: it’s a movement. It moves. You can’t dictate the direction, anymore than anyone else can. You want the conflict to be over, but it is a necessary part of the evolution of ideas; it is an essential element of discussion. Without the conflict, there can’t be a resolution, there would only be a simmering undertone of resentment from those whose voices have been silenced or dismissed. Mostly, though, you need to stop worrying. Passion often manifests as anger, but once the pressure is released, then the real change begins. Again, just give it time.
I know your attention span is wandering a little by now—we get better at that, too, but only once the children are all at school, and you can finally get a little more sleep—so I’ll keep this relatively short. I only really wanted to mention the last thing which is bothering you, and that’s social issues. As much as you don’t really like to call yourself a social justice warrior (well, we never really were one for labels of any kind, were we?), you do care deeply about access to healthcare and education. You’ll be pleased to know that your fears about your country’s political future are mostly unfounded. I mean, sure, you still have two more years of the conservative government until they get tossed out in the elections of 2016 (sorry about that: the double-dissolution you’re hoping for never eventuates, no matter how long you hold your breath) but after that, it’s like a switch turns on. In fact, as much as you hate the way the poor, elderly, chronically ill, and disabled people are being demonised right now, the good news is, it mobilises and unites the community in a way that nothing ever has before. Your society starts to become more self-aware, more politically aware, and it is a turning point in your social history. In short, it’s an awesome transformation which is about to take place.
And the same can be said for the rest of the world. I’m not going to pretend that there are no longer conflicts and disputes over land and resources, or that people don’t argue about every ridiculous little thing. They do. It’s human nature. But you need to believe me when I tell you that it gets so much better.
Of course you worry about the future—everyone does. Even I do, at the end of our long and healthy life, and as far as I can tell, I’ve only a few more years left on this wonderful planet. You have so much more ahead of you. You wonder how you can best act to make your time here worthwhile? How you can live the best life? Well, I guess I’m fairly qualified to answer that…
Just enjoy yourself. Be passionate, but also compassionate. Be non-judgemental. Be bold. Have convictions, but be willing to change them, should new information come to light. Be excited about what is to come, and what has already gone before.
I love you, even as I find your comparative youth and inexperience endearingly amusing. Take time to laugh. Sleep in when you can, and don’t feel guilty. Drink lots of tea, and hold those close to you very close, until it’s time to let them go. Then, just let them go.
The future is so bright. I guarantee, you’re going to love it.