It is with deep sadness that I woke to the news this morning.
I have been lost for words, speechless, and I have refused to read any further news coverage as I simply can’t deal with it just yet. I has taken me a while to think clearly enough to write something vaguely coherent. I’ve had to gather my thoughts and try to calm myself down so as not to spit something out I might later regret. Writing, to me, is cathartic. Therapeutic. Of course, I hope some of you will identify with, understand, or be moved by some of what I have to say, but mostly I selfishly need to lay this all down for myself. From the moment I opened my eyes, thoughts have been jumbling around my mind so erratically that I have struggled to pin them down. Having had a few hours to mull things over, suffice to say that today I am wearing black. Today I am in mourning.
I will never forget the feverish hope I held last night when I went to bed, and I will never forget that sinking feeling of utter shock and disbelief I experienced first thing this morning. I will never forget those further feelings of anger, frustration, sadness and shame on my commute to work. I will never forget yesterday’s torrential rain, nor today’s rather ironic glorious sunshine. I will never forget walking down the street thinking, “What have we done?”
As sick as some people are about the whole thing, the endless posts on social media, the awful human traits this referendum has highlighted, the debates, disputes and dire straits it has sparked, I feel the need to grieve. I lay in bed last night, thinking this might be the last time I go to sleep as a member of the European Union, and it turned out to be true. It has happened. So, in a way, this is my goodbye letter, an obituary of sorts.
This referendum has hit close to home. It has been extremely personal. For everyone. I myself have never been so emotionally invested in a political issue. Having been born in London and lived in the country for 12 years, I have never felt 100% British. Having been brought up in France and lived there for 16 years, I have never felt 100% French. The EU gave me an identity. I have benefited hugely from the ability to live, study and work in two member states and truly believe that my life would be incomparable had the UK not been a member of the EU for so many years. I am grateful for all it has given us and humbled by what it stands for.
But not everyone feels the same way. That’s how democracy works. Everyone has their own reason for voting. What upsets and scares me is that I see this as a populist protest vote, reflective of a growing national crisis. Our country is suffering from serious internal woes, which require help and support from a government that cares. Not only was this referendum not a decision for us to make, it certainly was not the right time for it to be held. The EU has become a scapegoat for everything that’s wrong with this country, for everything successive governments have ignored until now. And for that I weep. I weep for this country, which is supposed to be my own. I weep for the dark times ahead and for how the UK and its inhabitants will be perceived around the world.
Now, with Nigel Farage’s smug rictus plastered everywhere, the reality sets in. The pound has crashed, the UK’s credit rating has deteriorated. No surprise, really, that’s basic economics right there. Investors are not interested in an uncertain future. And that’s just what we have: a terribly uncertain future. This was a bet I wasn’t willing to place, a risk I wasn’t willing to take. We simply do not know what is going to happen. We might end up being better off, and I actually sincerely hope we do, to make all this a little more OK. But, in the short run, we need to brace ourselves for difficult times ahead. We need to be prepared for (re-)negotiations that will take years to finalise. We need to know that, in the meanwhile, most other issues on the political agenda will be put on the back-burner. We need to think about our futures.
In amongst such uncertainty, I find it difficult to curb my fear. My fear about my own future and that of the next generations. I have made plans recently, I’ve quit my job, prepared to set up as a freelance translator and to move back to the country I grew up in. I thought I was lucky enough to be able to do that rather freely. But I am officially British and today I fear that might not be so easy, that it might mean something else. Ten years ago, I had the opportunity to naturalise and become French but that required me to renounce my British nationality, something which I didn’t want to do because I felt proud of my heritage. Today, I think differently.
However, regrets are but futile. The results are in and this is happening so let’s move into this new phase with as much love, open-mindedness and kindness as we can muster. Be the change you want to see, and all that. I am grateful for the life I have led and the opportunities I have enjoyed. I am grateful for the eclectic group of friends I have made and for all they have taught me. I am grateful for the reassurance that I am not alone and that I am part of the 75% of young people who seemingly still share the same fundamental values.
Together we will stand strong and continue to work towards a world reflective of our ideals. In a nation divided, we must go on. Let’s not give in to aggression and blame and scapegoating as that’s what got us here in the first place. We are better than that.