Crossing the bridge – a 21st Century problem

spreySit back, relax and embrace the hijacking. Inspirez is proud to welcome our first guest blogger post courtesy of our dear friend, the always effervescent, Mr Steven Osprey. He has kindly delivered his perspective on life as we know it, the challenges it presents and the problem of how we define ourselves living in modern-day suburbia. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we have. Steven, we salute you.

Over the past few years, I have been increasingly pre-occupied with some pretty big questions. “Is what I am doing enough?” “What am I leaving behind?” “Have I shaped this world for the better?” I initially shrugged this off as a harmless mid-mid life crisis, but despite purchasing several items of snug leather attire, the pondering persisted. There was nothing for it; I turned Limp Bizkit off, and started making some notes. Having put a good bit of thought into this over the past few months, I believe I have a very 21st Century condition.

For as long as I can remember I have been ambitious in almost everything I do; always looking to try new things, have more experiences, push myself one step further. However, this general desire to ‘do well’, has had little or no real direction to it for several years now.

Growing up in a comfortable and happy middle class family saw my energy channelled by the people and institutions around me, who laid the tracks, pointed out the stops and gave me the start I needed. At this point in life, I was focused on achieving the goals set out in front of me; do well in standard grade to give you options at Higher, get good Highers to get into University, get a good degree to get a good job, get a good job to earn good money. Having clear opportunities put in front of me which made tangible ‘improvements’ to my life suited me well, and I cracked on.

Until now.

In the 6 years since I graduated from Uni, I’ve pretty much stayed on the beaten path and got myself a job and recently, a flat. I’ve had around 18 months here. Still happy, but not moving towards any particular goal. Not passing Go, not collecting my $200. It is at this juncture that I found myself writing notes for this post, trying to make sense of these questions; and to be honest, it’s been a struggle.

“Is what I am doing enough?” “What contribution have I made?” “What do I want from this?”

Bottom line? I have no idea.

While I’ve been on the Great-British Express, desperately shovelling coal to get to the next stop, I’m now realising I don’t know where I’m getting off. What I can say with absolute certainty is I do not

want my entry in reading “Sold computer software – Rudimentary understanding of Hamlet” alongside a selection of my wittiest Facebook posts.

Frustrated, I ploughed my time into smaller goals. Get fitter, decorate the flat, see more stuff. All the while the obituary remains beige.

And so, to the Bridge. In November this year, I watched a recent documentary on the forth rail bridge. Breaking ground in 1883, this was the most ambitious engineering project ever to be undertaken, and the fact that it remains one of our countries most vital economic arteries some 122 years after its completion is a testament to Scottish design and engineering. It was, however, the story of the 63 people who lost their lives in its 7 year construction that got my attention. As tragic as this is, these and the thousands of other men who have long since passed away, have undoubtedly shaped the landscape and history of Scotland. They have earned an immortality embedded in both steel and society.

That ain’t beige. So was that it? Did I want a statue? Immortality? Hero status? Assuming none of that comes with X-ray vision or Invisibility: No.

So if that isn’t what I’m after, why is my head full of these questions? Well, during a particularly long daydream while driving to Fife last week, I might just have stumbled upon the answer.

Our generation (on the whole) has been gifted an unprecedented period of national peace, safety and health. With the possible exception of the IRA and 7/7 bombings in London, the UK has been an extraordinarily safe place to exist for 50-something million souls since VE day in 1945. On top of that, our country has done a good job of keeping us healthy, protected and occupied for well over 60 years. In addition, being a product of the late nineties / early noughties ‘Education Education Education’ system has allowed us to pick almost any career and lifestyle path we want, picking up these skills at little or no cost. We’ve never had it so good.

Not only that, those skills are more transferable than ever. Since the dawn of the digital age, we have embraced new industry and technologies, and replaced our heavy manufacturing past for new, clean tertiary industries. Where our parents were required to hone a skill and ply a specific trade, the majority of us now are tapping keys and looking at a screen; only the order of our keystrokes separate Admiral from Architect.

So my point is, previous generations were issued an identity and (whether welcome or not) a sense of purpose at the school gates. The world was not their oyster, it was a time of doing what needed done, a time of grit and perseverance. While career choice, social mobility and sometimes happiness were sacrificed, they had their goals in front of them. They shaped the world around us, built the roads, buildings and bridges, and fought the Great wars of the 20th Century. Their legacy is civilisation, cities, bridges, sons and daughters, you and I.

We have no great war to fight, no plagues to cure, and only a few crossings left to ford.

And there it was. On a dreary day heading north out of Edinburgh, the deep red of that towering Victorian bridge I have seen a hundred times emerged in the corner of my eye. As I looked over, It

suddenly dawned on me. Our forefather’s achievements are not insurmountable peaks that dwarf us. They are the foundations of the greatest structure in history; each stone, girder and rivet hand crafted for us. Our ancestor’s legacy is our greatest opportunity.

“Am I on the right path?”

I don’t believe there is such a thing. The important thing is that I am walking one that I enjoy, and that I’m committed to. And if that changes, It’s never been easier to do something else.

Live your life like you mean it and history will take care of itself.

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