Identity is a difficult concept to grasp, both within ourselves and when expressed by others. Even harder to discuss in under 500 words. Often mocked as a notion desperately sought by the young, we are assumed to label and relabel ourselves as a substitute for experience, taking on the qualities of a group where we lack our own originality. They mean quaint philosophies like the kind of music you like or whether you eat dairy. But this need to belong is not the preserve of the young, and extends wider than growing a beard and not wearing socks with your loafers, as the EU debate has exposed.
Attending university has ignited my appetite for the world. The tangibility of exploration and contribution to our network of European countries is the reason I, and thousands of my peers, want a good degree. We discuss ideas in groups peppered with a myriad of accents. Read literature that requires translation. Live in areas of cities where it is rarer to find a local than someone from a different time zone. And then we embark, passport in hand, to these countries we feel we know but have not yet been. It requires as much advance thought as one puts into buying a new jumper. We live and learn across the continent, and sometimes don’t even bother to return home. I understand this is a luxury unique to the last few decades, but for students my age it feels like a right. And it is in danger.
It is too simplistic to say that the young people of our country do not value being British. The reality is that many of us like being European just as much. No need to wonder why we might look outwards when one acknowledges issues like high tuition fees and the impenetrable housing market. My generation can be labelled in many ways: anxious; superficial; confused. Regardless of any possible legitimacy in these statements, they are not the ones I would pick. Bright, optimistic, and talented are more fitting. The assumption that we won’t engage in a vote so integral to our futures is patronising to say the least. Whether in or out, we care more than politicians will have us believe.
There is power in a label. The comfort and comradery it can bring is undeniable, but it can also stir hatred. Do I pine for a time when I was defined by my love of Fleetwood Mac (I’m as original as they come) rather than by race or politics? Increasingly frequently. But in reality, I don’t think a time like that ever actually existed. I rarely apologise for dramatics, as my parents will testify. If the intention of exiting Europe is to drive the talent currently being nurtured in our universities out of Britain: vote leave. I guarantee many of us will too (And we might take the hipsters with us).