I live in a small and rich country where we can still afford to refuse a job when it is not in the city where we live and study. It is a luxury to be able to say no because you don’t want to commute one hour for your job. In my country people don’t move around a lot. They live an easy life, have a nice job, and are able to afford a comfortable standard of living. Things have changed a little bit lately but it is still a very comfortable country. When I was in the US, I met a lot of young American who had been living far from home usually right after high school. American people don’t see a problem in moving to another city for college or for work. We don’t have this mentality in Europe in general, let alone in my country. Of course there are always exceptions.
Tonight at a dinner, I met a French young man. I don’t know why I was particularly touched by his story and background. He is 25 years old. He came from a very small town in the North of France, the kind of town with no charm and no particular interests for tourists and for the rest of the world. It is hard to say things like that, he said. But it is the truth according to him. His hometown is an industrial town where the inhabitants either work in the construction or are truck drivers. The kind of town in the middle of nowhere, not by the seaside, no mountains around. Nothing. No one wants to stop by and have a look at his town, he said twice. Young people grow up and as soon as they finish high school, they get out of there, trying to get a job in Paris if lucky or in the closest bigger town nearby (not especially better either). He told me the story of his town as if he was a history or geography teacher, giving me a private lesson. He added that groups of young people used to date one among another, girls want to get married by the age of 22 in average. Shortage of potential young guys. No particular nice perspective for the future. France doesn’t seem to be a dream country for him.
Unlike the other young kids, he did not only dream about new horizons, he left his hometown at the age of 18. He had lived here and there in France, got a Bachelor in literature and a computer degree. Then went to Berlin and stayed there for two years. His parents are teachers and he is the only child. When he told his story, he talked with a monotonous voice, as if it was nothing particular. His parents do not want to help him financially, he is completely on his own since he reached 18. He arrived a month ago in my city, the third most expensive one in the world. He was trying to look for a job.
The story is at first sight nothing extraordinary, not sadder than other ones, not very joyful either. But I don’t know why, I just perceived a sad struggle in him. Something more profound is hidden in his voice. Not a desperation but a kind of loneliness emanating from him. And it strangely stroke me.
I left the dinner and thought about how lonely we could be at the end of the day. He seems to carry it not only at the end of the day but all the day long, maybe during years already. And now in this new city. On my way back, in the bus, I could not stop thinking about loneliness, young, old, small city, big city, it is just something so universal and we cannot avoid it. “We will all die one day and alone”. A cliché but still true.
This encounter definitely made me sad. This young person embodies loneliness and the weight of uncertainty, so deeply and so heavily.