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  • Writer's pictureAaliyah Tshabalala

A Bunch of Clichés

by: Aaliyah Tshabalala

“Don’t worry. You’re young. You have time”. I understand these words are said with the intention of removing all shadows of doubt. But being within the crossover of the Millennial and Gen Z’s generation (a Zillennial) comes with its whirlwind of insecurities and uncertainties. It would be foolish not to mention that Ms.Covid-19 – whom I like to call Ms. Co-violent – did the world dirty. Except those who became richer because they mastered the technology industry – no shade because I contributed to their monopoly. Zillennials may feel overwhelmed with the allure of choice and simultaneously confused by it. The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t know. These feelings aren’t new, and they seem to be

overwhelmingly true now. Like those before me, I am no stranger to asking for advice. Experience always wins. Wisdom is priceless. I took the opportunity to ask the community I have built around me to give me some words of wisdom. Things they wish they knew at my age, things they wish someone else would have told them, and things they know now. I have been smacked, tested, and unknowingly humbled with truths. These are some of the "truths" expressed to me and my short and long responses to "a bunch of clichés."

Social media does not define you. – Tell that to the Kardashians’ bank account.

Play less with your phones, spend more time in the real world. – There is nothing like a hot and wet Shanghai. The mixture of congested city life and hot weather can irk the senses. It takes time to get used to, and so do people's obsessions with their phones. When I first stepped onto the notorious shanghai metro, I was in awe of the sea smartphone screens reflecting the harsh fluorescent light in the cabin. People were fixed to their cell phones doing what? – Buying random shit on Taobao (an endless online shopping platform where you can buy anything from groceries to sex toys), scrolling through social media, texting on WeChat,

playing games, and doing remote work. The list goes on. Personally, this was a culture shock because never had I seen so many people glued to their screens as if they were witnessing the zombie apocalypse. It might be a surprise coming from someone in their mid-20's, but I quite enjoyed being present in the moment, without the distractions of technology. However, I soon became embroiled in the flow of things because you do not exist without a phone in this city. It’s almost like the episode of Black Mirror: Nosedive - where a person’s social media

ratings are the equivalent of their currency. The slim (often overpriced) block of aluminium means you are accessible and equally accessed. Without it, your value depreciates. What existence?! It sounds depressing but not as depressing as being out of touch. How to be more in touch? …

Go inside. – Deep. I have no words, just a black hole of thoughts.

Friendships are as important and as a family. – Living abroad as an ex-pat is not easy. Every person has their own experience, but the stories of hardships tend to overlap. In such instances, it is important to create a family away from home. Friends are the family you choose. Without them, life is incredibly difficult. Learning and growing are easier through your friends. No man is an island. The irony bangs when you leave the comfort and security of your home. Creating a new community to survive is crucial. It sounds dramatic but not as dramatic as Ms. Coviolent’s ongoing theatre production. Whether your friends are there to help you move home, keep you company or in my case, tingle your ears with the shamelessness of laowai in Shanghai, having a friend is an underrated yet priceless gift. And so are some other things.

Buy crypto! – No shit.

Good things take time. – This piece of advice is a tough one, especially if you’re an impatient glutenous Zillennial . "I want it all, and I want it right now!" screams my inner voice while I clutch my shirt from the chest pains. There are projects which I have started and felt as if I lack the motivation to finish. Projects become hard to focus on when there isn’t a tangible reward, like money. Passion projects are exactly that, "passion" projects. Not all will give you an immediate prize, but they may teach you lessons and provide you with some necessary skills. Working for a remote media team that collaborates to create content for curious ears and eyes has been a journey. A stressful, nerve-racking, doubtful, riddled with insecurities journey. I always wanted to have a podcast. I have a history of being a radio host back at University. The idea of being able to create content and discuss topics like skin bleaching, intersectionality, rich-face, and other social trends and issues was (and still is) important to me. I am glad I followed through with it. However, I forgot how many little things go into executing a project, let alone making it a success (still waiting). The money and time involved have made me think twice about continuing with it. Not only that, but the scrutiny, the apathy, the judgment, and the self-critique can overwhelm a person. I accept that it's not going to be easy. Only time will determine if it's worth it or not. In the meantime, I am spending all that is valuable to me and betting on growth as compensation. The mistakes lead to quicker and more valuable lessons. I guess I agree with the advice of “take more risk”, but also pray that Ms. Co-violent doesn’t delay your rewards.

Get your finger out of your ass and get to work – Thanks.

Never settle for anything less than your worth, if not more – We are overstimulated in this Co-violent era. There are so many things to do. Opportunities seem endless yet difficult to attain. I am not quite sure if that is a social problem or a personal issue. At times I think we’re plagued with too many possibilities, too much choice. In the Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz writes

"[u]nfortunately, the proliferation of choice in our lives robs us of the opportunity to decide for ourselves just how important any given decision is.”

Yeah, I heard that!

Deciding is tough but not as tough as the time it takes to decide for yourself. At some point, one needs to decide what is right for themselves. It could be that you establish only one standard to minimize this paradox of choice. As Schwartz states,

“if you seek and accept only the best, you are a maximizer.”


Ms. Coviolent was a maximizer for sure. She maximized on some of the best years of this weird mix of the two generations I find myself floating between, but she also pulled my eyes open a little wider. She gave me opportunities, delicious memories, cherished moments, gangster friendships, hard-knock-life lessons, and necessary introspection. The generations change, but the advice stays the same. Be grateful and listen to your parents.

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