THE HECTIC LIFE OF A CITY BANKER LEAVES NO SPACE FOR BUILDING A NEST
Think family. What’s the first thing you associate it with? Stability; long term affections; your mother’s or partner’s smile; or security perhaps. Think London. Again, what springs to mind? Velocity; competition; and change. For many young Italians, trying to fit the universal aspiration of building up a core of affection and stability within this urban chaos can be tricky. Why? Ok, let’s say you’re a young banker, just married and just let go with your pay-slip leaving you in the hour of need. This leads to your mortgage application being rejected, downsizing, and hopefully not a marital crisis too.
Or let’s say your career is quietly heading towards a cul-de-sac and you’re offered with an opportunity in Hong Kong. Less tax, more money
– come on, sell the house, pack up, tell your wife she has to quit her job and move on. Chop chop, you will plan that child another time! How about the stability, the security and all those warm and cozy nouns? Leave them for another day. Or perhaps you’re a small clog in the wheel of the M&A department, burning the midnight oil in the office, with your family picture framed on the desk. So cute! You head back home when the rest of the city is in REM sleeping mode, quietly enter the kids’ room to throw a glimpse in the dark at your boy’s bed. You truly see your son growing up by holding him in your arms twice a week at best. Perhaps even see the cracks in your marriage growing up a bit more week by week. Every dream has a price and this was always meant to be part of the package. When you signed the dotted line there was no family idyll to match that alluring Italian province, with a roomy villa and a lifelong well-paid job. That was about a generation ago.
There is also a different breed of young expats, a not so silent majority, for whom London just does not equate with family. They prefer dropping off the grid of the mortgaged soon-to-be married walk of life and instead enjoy the swings and roundabouts of a city that offers so much short-term fun. Their urban family is made up of flat-mates, colleagues and Tinder matches. And so be it – fun is a serious business in London. The problem is when these young expats become less young, but cannot refocus. Friends come and go, but with time they come less and go more, swooped away in their whirlpool of work and, well, family. It is then that you might start craving the core of stability you so carefully avoided. It is then that you start feeling the way you never did: alone. Alone among millions of people. There is a darkly delicate short story by Edgar Allan Poe, The Man of the Crowd
. Every Londoner or soon-to-be Londoner should read it. The story takes you from your reading seat directly onto the streets of Victorian London, following the seemingly erratic walks of a mysterious man, from Soho dark alleys to busy West End thoroughfares. The dingy shops and the fashionable cafès, the rush hour, the swarming humanity, the pulse of the city that was, pounding fast and loud. Just like today. And that little ragged man, muddling through the busy crowd in a pathetic, desperate attempt not to be alone. Classics always resonate with modern times. But we all like happy endings and indeed usually there is one. From fun-seekers to first hour family guys, the majority of Italian bankers I come across have ended up in happy marriages and long-term relationships, and that is a crucial part of their success. The message is genuinely uplifting: build something true and lasting that goes way beyond the hardship, the firings and long hours this job presents you with and things will be fine. As long as you have someone that loves you, as long as you are not a lonely atom in an eight-million person city, you can draw enough strength to journey on, whatever the weather.
It is then that you start feeling the way you never did: alone.