Hap­pi­ness is... be­ing lucky to have First World prob­lems

The Sunday Telegraph - - Features - Read more tele­graph.co.uk/ opin­ion Twit­ter @zstrimpel

Ev­ery day I’m able to worry about ex­otic fruit or cham­pagne is a good day

Nor­mally, it’s there. But ear­lier this week, I walked into the Finch­ley Road Waitrose (my per­sonal ther­a­peu­tic tem­ple as well as go-to lo­cal su­per­mar­ket) to find to my ut­ter con­ster­na­tion that … there were no pre-pack­aged pome­gran­ate seeds. What?! I stared in anx­i­ety and ris­ing sense of panic. There was cayenne sliced pineap­ple (good, but not what I wanted); mango (yawn) and melon packs (ir­rel­e­vant). I wanted pome­gran­ate; ex­pected it, craved it – the idea that it would not in fact be grac­ing my (also in­di­vid­u­ally prepacked) Yeo Val­ley Greek-style yogurt five min­utes hence was gen­uinely quite vex­ing.

Is Waitrose not hav­ing pome­gran­ate seeds one of my great­est fears in life? No, it is not; but then again it is rare that they are not there when I want them (see, too, fel­low sta­ples Itsu sea­weed, Ran­noch smoked chicken breast and 85 per cent Lindt choco­late). Loom­ing larger in my life is my fury when I am con­fronted with faulty wifi (I spend a lot of time in the Bri­tish Li­brary) or im­mense ir­ri­ta­tion at hav­ing to make do with Caffé Nero in­stead of an ar­ti­sanal barista flat white cof­fee (I spend a lot of time in train sta­tions, too, com­mut­ing to Sus­sex Uni­ver­sity where I am cur­rently teach­ing).

But it turns out that throw­ing a mini (al­beit in­ter­nal) tantrum when some­thing isn’t im­me­di­ately avail­able or smoothly de­liv­ered is sim­ply par for the gen­er­a­tional course – at least in Bri­tain. A much-dis­cussed sur­vey last week by phone maker HTC found that the big­gest “First World prob­lems” plagu­ing to­day’s Bri­tish mil­len­ni­als (twenty and thir­tysome­things) in­clude for­get­ting lo­gin pass­words, wait­ing for an on­line video to buf­fer, be­ing stuck with bad av­o­cado (too mushy or too hard) or (out­rage!) fac­ing a short­age of pros­ecco.

Yes, my gen­er­a­tion is ob­sessed with food – the other night I ac­tu­ally dreamt about whether to go to a new no-reser­va­tion hip­ster Ital­ian place in Dept­ford , south-east Lon­don, or to a less ex­cit­ing but book­able place with great steak and pas­sion fruit mar­ti­nis (which I’m al­lowed on my three nights of drink­ing per week). In con­trast, the older gen­er­a­tion, sur­veyed in 1997, wrung their hands over things like relationships, earn­ing enough to cover their rent, and be­ing able to af­ford a hol­i­day. But look more closely at the list and a sim­i­lar pic­ture emerges – they too

were dis­turbed by the triv­ial in­con­ve­niences of life in a pros­per­ous, lib­eral (though at that point smart­phone-free) coun­try. Nearly a quar­ter of them also wor­ried about “when you have pho­tos de­vel­oped and most were over­ex­posed” (bless); while oth­ers hated “hav­ing to get up to change the chan­nel on the TV” (dou­ble bless) and “ar­rang­ing to meet some­one at a cer­tain time and run­ning late” (all to­gether now).

Sur­veys like this of­fer a plum chance to de­pict a na­tion of un­be­liev­ably, al­most far­ci­cally shal­low young adults. One news­pa­per called the con­cern to avoid bad av­o­cado “av­o­cado anx­i­ety – a ter­ror of the fruit not be­ing ripe”. Ter­ror? Hardly. Av­o­cado-re­lated un­ease is surely more about the ex­treme frus­tra­tion and sense of dis­ap­point­ment I de­scribed above. But with “prob­lems” and “av­o­ca­dos” in the same sen­tence, the mes­sage is clear: we should be blush­ing beet­root about the inanity and sheer priv­i­lege of our “First World” prob­lems.

Well, you can check your priv­i­lege, but I’ll be tak­ing mine on board with me. You cer­tainly won’t see me apol­o­gis­ing for hav­ing First World prob­lems. Wor­ry­ing about a low stock of pomegranates at Waitrose is in­fin­itely prefer­able to liv­ing in fear, dan­ger and grind­ing poverty – as so many in the world do. I there­fore choose to em­brace my luck with wide-open, grate­ful arms and gul­let. This is not to go all Marie An­toinette and grossly pa­rade priv­i­lege, or for­get the lot­tery-win of liv­ing in Bri­tain in­stead of, say, Ye­men or Saudi Ara­bia, or in­deed to be in any way cal­lous or off­hand about oth­ers’ mis­for­tune and tragedy. It’s rather to heed the slo­gan of one of my favourite T-shirts: “Let me eat cake”.

Of course, the truth is that we fo­cus on First World prob­lems when and be­cause we can. They’re the sooth­ing, com­fort­ing dis­trac­tions in our lives when mon­sters like the health of loved ones, fi­nances and cat­a­strophic world events are at bay bay. Ev­ery day I am able to worry about exo ex­otic fruit, or won­der whether there w will be cham­pagne (yay!) or pros­ecco (les (less yay, to be hon­est) at my friend’s wed wed­ding is a good day. We’re in­cred­i­bly lucky not to live in a war zone, or un un­der a highly re­pres­sive regime. Re­joiceRe­joic that we can buy pomegrana pomegranates year-round, and fly to Palerm Palermo for £50 re­turn. If we also hap hap­pen to be tem­po­rar­ily and m mirac­u­lously free of life’s heavie heav­ier bur­dens and in good health health, it is al­most our duty to en­joy our spoiled, su­per­fi­cial, frankl frankly de­li­cious First World proble prob­lems to the very max.

And w with a world in to­tal, ter­ri­fyin ter­ri­fy­ing dis­ar­ray on so many fronts, thi this is ab­so­lutely the time – while we can – to trea­sure and cel­e­brate our is­sues with ex­pen­sive veg­eta­bles and fizzy wine.

Pome­gran­ate panic: the day Waitrose ran out

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