I just watched a DVD called Young and Restless in China. It’s a documentary about China’s version of Generation X (or Y) who are facing issues in contemporary China. I loved how the filming took place over four years, and how we could see their lives unfolding. It’s similar to a British longitudinal study and documentary called the “Up Series“, which documents the lives of British citizens from a vast spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds, and follows them for about 40 years.

The main reason I write about Young and Restless in China is that I came across the video by searching the library’s catalogue using the keyword, “restless.” It appears that people around the world, probably of a similar age group to my own, are feeling this sense of restlessness that I’ve felt. A generation in flux, transition, with a sense of urgent movement and procession. I loved how the movie portrayed this sense of longing to do something, this human desire to not simply do what’s in front of you, but to go out and do things that make a difference.

I was astounded by the focus on money, social capital, prestige, and status. Chinese culture is unfortunately money-focused, so although it didn’t surprise me, I still can’t help but wonder how Chinese people redirect their focus on things other than money or power or status. What was even more powerful was how some of the personalities realized that once the money piled up, there was still so much more for them to take in: family, aging parents, broken relationships, environmental health concerns. What I mean to say is that factors other than money play a large part in shaping our world view, and this is what a lot of Gen X’ers are struggling with around the world.

Many parts of the narrative resonated with me because I related with their sense of questioning and searching. Some of the younger characters focused faced emerging issues: issues of identity, belonging, future. I found that the older characters (and I related more with these characters) had similar issues, but they weren’t emergent; instead of emergent, they were facing the issues head on. What’s more, I was fascinated with how some older characters reflected on their past, and how the past made such an impact on their present lives. I think there’s always a sense of nostalgia for the past that we carry, and in concert with that nostalgia is a sense of resentment for failures or unfulfilled expectations. Much of my own explorations in life, my own questioning and curiosity, tend to be generated from this tension between nostalgia and resentment.