There is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year. Collectively, as citizens on this planet, we were just getting blow after blow since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. For most youth, it can feel like they were sold a dream. This period is seen as the age of independence, of exploring the world and finding out who you are as a person. However, the pandemic and in general, the economic shape of our country has halted most of the rites of passage associated with turning from a youth to an adult. It can feel like the hopes for the future are worthless.
It is also difficult to build confidence in youths when it seems that their success is so dependent on external factors. The lack of employment prospects hurts talent, erodes enthusiasm and impacts the dignity of our youth. It is therefore understandable that many youths are struggling to keep their mental health in check. Much is changing right in front of our eyes. But also, much has stayed the same. With every bad there is a reciprocal good which must be taken into account before we should let the cloud descend.
Change teaches us to be adaptive and flexible. It forces us to pay attention to what’s happening so we are not caught unawares. It is not an end of dreams but an appraisal and a chance to dream new dreams. It presents new opportunities in as much as it closes some doors. But it’s okay if it does not feel like that right now. There is much to process and much is required of youth before they get to solid ground.
So, what can we do to keep standing? Let’s come back to a few basics.
Historically, we have made great strides in terms of equal rights for differently abled people, races, immigrants, gender and children. For many, inclusivity means that they are able to realise their dreams and contribute meaningfully to society. In future, this means that there is a greater need for people to broaden their perspectives on acceptance because tolerance will not be enough. There is still plenty of work to be done and if for anything, should a young person feel that the world does not have a place for them, there are those counting on their unique talents and privileges to make the world a better place.
Professionally, somethings have been a long way coming, such as digitisation. Technology has democratised education, ways to make a living and bridged communication between us. To take advantage of these opportunities we need to upskill and take up a multi-disciplinary approach to education and the workforce. Traditional stable careers such as law, engineering and medicine cannot be done in isolation of social and technological progress. New skills are in demand and for many, it does not matter what your educational level is – just that you are able and willing to learn. The future needs and has a place for humanity. There are things that robots cannot nor will be able to do for eons. Emotional creativity and intelligence will become skills and currencies into the future.
It’s important to understand a couple of things. Days are tough and they will be for a long time. We are required to be resilient and consistent in trying new things. However, where things don’t come together, this is not a reflection of personal failure. It matters that we invest in positive ways to deal with delays and hard times. We need mental and emotional fortitude. It is in accepting that life ebbs and flows and we will need to receive and provide support to those around us when needed. We should all take this opportunity to dream different, aspire different and take care of ourselves. The youth have the world to inherit. And it starts with a dream.