Reflecting on the Living Together campaign

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).


Pretty amazing! Of all the possible functions for Egderyders, I would never have thought of “emotional support”.

I am really intrigued by your last paragraph. So:

  • adulthood is not forever (!)
  • if you lose some of the "markers of adulthood" (completing education, finding a stable job, leaving the parents’ home...) it does not mean you are being thrown back (and therefore you have failed), but that you are "solving individually a systemic contradiction" (and therefore you have done something heroic).
  • as you do that, you might gain a lot by building a broader and more diverse network of support and caring relationships
Does that not mean adulthood as a category is losing meaning? An adult is supposed to be someone who takes care of herself (and possibly others). But what we are saying is that we all depend on each other for support one way or another, at one time or another. Is our society become too interconnected for true adulthood?

(this may be a load of crap. It probably is, forgive me: sociology is not really my field and I am trying to understand)

need of each other

Adulthood is meant to be the centre of life to which all other stages are confronted with but I think there is a problem here. Markers are getting confused and transposed. And eventually you do become an elderly at some point, don’t you? So definitely adulthood is not forever (hopefully).

Also, the very social meaning I intended to attach to this is that you do carry on society’s burden on your shoulder. Just to give a self evident example: it’s so difficult for fresh graduates in several countries of Europe now to find a traditional graduate job upon leaving university. This used to be a much more straight forward process. So you might be brought to think that YOU are not good enough to succeed. You probably know that the unemployment rate for young graduates is very high, and many of your friends are experiencing your difficulties too, but FIRST you perceived it as a personal matter, no matter how strongly public debate is telling you that you should find your way through individualised strategies- or maybe exactly because of this. The whole rethoric of individualization (which is something different from individualism) fails to recognise the added effort YOU have to carry on your shoulder. I am not sure whether this brings you to be heroic, but it’s Something. The ideal society (for me, at least) is the one which gives the extraordinary talented ones space to  realise their bright ideas, but without leaving anyone falling behind. The current economic and historic moment should be much fairer with both. Yes, we do need each other and sorry for the abrupt simplification and division into two, what I mean here is that not everyone is strong enough to actively fight for their own realization, and institutions should/could be much more supportive here. I see this becomes very political but in such a broad way that Edgeryders could help too in converging suggestions and factual proposals.

Changing self-representations

Dear Valentina,

I’m adding just one point, as your reflection feels like a voice over to my own thoughts and understanding of this.

Personally, I think this sense of emotional support Edgeryders provide in response to experiences that may elsewhere be labeled "failures", "missing the start" in adult life, lateness to mature - is important also because the lesson to learn individually and collectively is that these labels are not valid in most cases. It is not the end of your career, they don't point out to inability to form families, it it not too late etc. 
One can acknowledge that he/she can begin to build on those experiences voluntarily and transform them into assets. That way we don't have to even talk about our experiences in a way that justifies them to the society. If our job, or family-family structure don't fit into current representations, not having to force it into them is liberating. I see this as an intrinsic gain, speaking from my experience. I don't have to look down or allow to be looked down upon.
And somehow related to what Alberto says about Edgeryders and this generation being actually heroic, there actually is a sense of pride and self-respect in many of the community's experiences. On the top of my head I remember Kate's statement: the nuclear family doesn't exist in my mind as the family I have created for myself since leaving home is too great to not have an involvement in where I go from here on in, and I believe a lot of people would think in a similar way or I, for one, will continue to build my family in whatever way I see fit

Hi Noemi

this has made me

Hi Noemi

this has made me think a lot, and many thanks for this.

I agree!


i hope Edgeryders will explore this part of collective consciousness, starting from singular significative experience, to reach collective goals.

If we will be able to raise a problem that people normally conceives as personal (because of tha lack of representativness of national institutions, unions, parties, no profit organizations ecc… that we use to consider) to a higher ranking of society and community level, we will do a quantum leap that will permit to suggest to european institutions something very intersting and deep.

Hope we can!

Yes I think this should be one of the main goals of Edgeryders, a very ambitions one but hey,  worthwhile projects always are ambitions, arent’ they?