In this short post, I will try and extract one possible interpretation of the campaign Living Together. To do this I have got to go auto-biographical, but you will excuse me.
I was raised in one of those places in Italy which would culturally aspire to be like Alberto’s, when he says that he is the only one from high school to live outside of 30 km from the school building (how beautifully does this expression describe Italian provinces?). Anyway, I said my place would aspire to be like this but it’s not quite, because severe lack of job opportunities does not make this possible and actually many have emigrated to more prosperous lands over the decades. But those who remain, often build their own houses on the upper level of their parents’, doing what I call ‘km zero vertical emigration’. It’s the game of the nuclear families which add to each other without mixing too much, just constituting several layers of bonds always ready to help when it is difficult to find structural support (for the children, the elderly, those in need ect ect).
After several years studying in the UK, I also indulged into this model and settled down in a nice house near to my ‘family-family’. Then, due to unforeseen work circumstances, I left for the UK again. I looked for a shared cottage and came back to a sort of student life sharing with other three. I have no ‘family- family’ around, no car, no comfy food like my beloved grown-under-the-sun tomatoes. I see this is far less adventurous than most of Edgeryders experiences told here – several of which are amazing and truly enjoyable to read- and one can just think ‘this is life, you have to adjust’. And in many ways this is true. But this would also overlook what cultural models we are grown up with and how subvertive of these life can be.
Let’s go general: we are brought to think that transitions in life are once and for all. We are used to take for granted that once we’ve had our student life for a while, and once we have earned our qualifications, we will just work, and keep on working. This does not consider that we can loose our job position, for instance. Of course we know this is possible, but it’s not until it happens to us that we really realise what it means –and I do think Edgeryders is playing its important part here in emotionally supporting this. Once we put ourselves into the market, we do not think we may need to re-qualify at some point. But none of the traditional markers of adulthood as indicated in the literature- completing education, finding a stable jobs, leaving the parents’ house, forming a stable partnership and becoming a parent - are definitive and last forever. The only possible exception is becoming a parent, in the sense that once you’ve had a child your role cannot cease to exist, yet I have seen so many models of doing this which involve the help of others, that I would say that even this dimension is becoming less clear-cut. Maybe there has to be some consequential sequence of events, but we are intended to follow a linear pathway which is always less common in reality. And nobody is really taking action for this, as nonetheless we seek to enchannel ourselves into something which gives our experiences a shared meaning.
But let me go back to my move to the UK. You know what? I do not have my ‘family-family’ here, but I am extending my ‘other’ family, to use an expression Edgeryders have shown to like. I share a house (i.e., a space) with people I am not meant to share a life with, but I have learned so much about myself through the eyes of this ‘other family’. I am not a monolitical entity for them, with my ‘well-known’ traits and character. They see me for how I behave now, they give a name to my weaknesses and strengths for how they appear now, they do not know what I was or what I did before unless I tell it to them and this is also liberating. I am what I am now. I know where I came from, in all possible ways.
Truth is, people is moving very often across the UK and need to reconstitute their ‘other family’ in a way they would not need in Sardinia. But there is some enthusiasm you can get from all this that the linear transition model, in its rationality, does not contemplate. In a nutshell, reports in this campaign absolve a very social function. They demonstrate that if you find yourself in the situation to build your ‘family’ all over again, this does not mean you are ‘going back’ to a situation you were supposed to have overcome, nor that you failed or lost something. Instead, in sociology jargon that would be having to solve ‘individually’ a ‘systemic contradiction’. And you can actually gain a lot from having to enlarge your ‘family-family’ and bonds, which you won’t probably gain just emigrating ‘vertically’.
(…was this a “thank you” to the community? Yes, I think it was).