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Why Londoners should give themselves a break

By Time Out London contributor

Is London getting you down? There's a simple solution: be nicer to yourself.

Ever told a door to fuck off? It probably happens more than it should, and mainly on the bloody tube. While other people are doing things like going into space and inventing the internet, there you are, some sweaty peasant swearing at machinery. Londoners are never angrier than when public transport messes up, and that’s because we’re strangers to the idea of not being fully in control of our lives. We make myriad choices every day that contribute, brick-by-brick, to the cathedral of command in our minds, reaffirming the idea that we are lucky and clever and interesting and funny and no one can tell us what to do.

‘I must create a system/Or be enslav’d by another man’s,’ said William Blake. Since forever ago, Londoners have been taught to ignore the millions of little golden victories and moments of quiet wonder and joy that pepper our daily lives (and yes, they are there in number) on the mission to be controllers of our own destiny.

Our culture’s overbearing message is that we should be entrepreneurial and ambitious, but the vast majority of us work within systems. We have bosses and families and friends and lovers who demand things of us and, by and large, we do our best to accommodate them, because that’s what you do when you aren’t a total shit.

But that sense of catering for someone else, whether for money or love, flies in the face of the deification of modern icons such as Steve Jobs. If we aren’t working every single second of every single day to make our own personal heaven, the Instagram platitudes go, we are sleepwalking to a lonely grave.

Unfortunately, that goal is completely unattainable and that feeling utterly incompatible with modern life. When the tube is fucked, when the wi-fi won’t connect, when someone leaves the door slightly ajar… This flustered frustration is because we hate being reminded that other people and things have control over us. Leaving for work early but arriving late through no fault of your own feels like a confirmation of that great unsaid – that we are fucked and far from the home we left to come here, and no one cares.

But if we were a little kinder to ourselves – if we stopped worrying about expectations of where we should be at 20, 30, 40, 50 – then we wouldn’t be so fragile. If there is no illusion, then it can’t be shattered. Life is already such a cosmic fucking struggle of titanic odds versus little old you, that the very fact you’re here at all is worth celebrating in some small way.

It’s easy to say fuck London or fuck social media or fuck capitalism, as if they’re the problem. They’re not. Fuck pressure, fuck anxiety and fuck competition, with each other and with ourselves. Everything is way more fine than you realise.

By Ben Patashnik

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