Always developing

Always developing

29 May 2019 Andrea de la Cruz 4397 views

Since 2017, a team of young researchers has put this question to their generation peers: What would the world look like in 2030 if what lives within you becomes a reality? What will you do to make it happen? A first report based on the answers of young people from 23 different countries has now been published.

One of the objectives of this study is to learn about youth’s experiences of reality. For this, young researchers carried out in-depth interviews that allow participants to reflect upon life experiences and wishes and hopes for the future with a peer.

The first phase of the research consisted of 40 interviews with people aged 18–35 from 23 countries and a variety of cultural backgrounds. During interviews, it was up to the young people to choose the topics of discussion. In the resulting dialogues we identified some universal themes appearing across interviewees’ testimonies: origins, education, profession, spirituality and relationships.

Space for our own questions

One of the first observations is that these young people perceive life as an ever-changing, transformative experience that requires constant awareness of self and others, as well as constant questioning and dialogue with self and the environment before taking action. We called this a state of ‹Conscious Becoming›: «I think I’m really conscious that a human being, as a whole, is developing; and always developing», said a 21-year-old woman from Germany.

Interviewees said that they thrive in environments where there is potential for change and becoming, but reject situations where they are asked to perform finite tasks determined by another, and where there is no space for their own questions to be posed. In a world that is perceived to be in constant transformation, how can one generate stability and security? «If everything is moving – and that is OK –, then I have to understand what I need in order to navigate through that», said a 29-year-old participant from England.

For these young people, reality asks us to confront a world of polarities, differences and multiculturalism. To meet this request, they start by looking at their own national, cultural and ancestral heritage. In most interviews, personal origins are explored and described with lightness and acceptance, even in those cases where challenging origins are present. It is clear that young people are actively enquiring and seeking for an understanding of their origins and how these have contributed to their identity building. This is even more apparent amongst those with mixed nationalities. «I don’t define myself as if I were from a specific part of the world because I feel from the whole world», said an 18 year-old Bolivian woman.

Being seen and understood

With regard to education, some interviewees linked a positive educational experience with the feeling of being ‹seen› and understood by teachers as an individuality. Particularly (though not exclusively) amongst the interviewees coming from Asian countries, it was possible to observe the challenge that arises when young people experience a tension between what is expected of them by family members in terms of educational and career choices, and what they long for themselves.

In their profession often they described situations that do not allow them to fully unfold their interests and potentials, or that do not ensure that they receive the financial compensation needed in order to be financially independent from others (family or the state). There is ‹no-tolerance› for a professional setting with a lack of ethics, or where meaningful relationships cannot be formed. They speak also of the difficulty of combining one’s own vocation to their professional reality.

The great majority of interviewees were critical of religious practices which they linked to ideas of oppression and experiences of institutionally-imposed morality. Nevertheless, young people speak often of a relationship to God, divinity or spirituality, as something that has meaning for them. On the search for a deeper knowledge of oneself they have engaged in activities such as specific spiritual paths, meditations, rituals and even substance use. According to them, experiences of this sort offer a space for self-reflection and questions about the nature of life, humanity, and human relationships.

Integrating pluralities and differences

Interviewees spoke of relationships as one, if not the most, significant aspect of their present reality. This includes their relationship to themselves, which according to interviewees, influences the way in which they connect with others. A strong sense of togetherness arises when relationships based on the sharing of ideas, questions and aspects relating to all of human nature.

They often maintain a reflective attitude towards their relationships, as if seeking to constantly learn through trial and error. This leads them to form ever evolving bonds with the people they share experiences with. The values which they identified to be vital for meaningful relationships include authenticity, honesty and transparency, all of which lead to good communication, which for them is at the base of meaningful relationships. They also seek to learn ways to integrate pluralities and differences as they strive for acceptance out of the understanding of the «otherness». A strong sense of togetherness arises when relationships are able to be based on the sharing of ideas, questions and aspects relating to all of human nature.

Participants were not interested in ready-made solutions or quick fixes to personal and world-problems; instead, they expressed a need for tools that will enable their thinking to encounter the challenges that come to meet them. What lives within these young people is a strong longing to generate life-conditions where it is possible for humanity to act from a place of awareness and deep knowledge of all the factors involved in the challenges we face. For interviewees, it all starts with individual action.

‹(Re)Search› Team Andrea de la Cruz Barral and Ioana Viscrianu. Mentors Constanza Kaliks, Pepa and Luis Miguel Barral. Allies Alina Fessler, Janna de Vries, Johannes Kronenberg, Nahuel Waroquiers and Sibel Caliskan.