Is youth wasted on the young?
I have a young friend who is going through a very difficult time, and I woke up with her on my mind this morning after a long conversation with her last night. She is dealing with decisions someone her age should not have to, and I keep thinking, wondering, where the carefree days of youth have gone?
It’s ironic that I’m seeing things this way, as the current culture is hurling the concept of happiness as an entitlement into society like a shot putter, while it appears there is less actual happiness. I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting old, but I remember, in my early twenties, driving down the road in my little yellow sports car with the sunroof open and my hair whipping in the wind as I traveled across whatever road I had chosen for the day and feeling exhilarated just to be alive. Granted, these were the pre-bipolar days before someone turned out the lights on my understanding of “normal,” but I remember them that way.
These days, it seems young people are saddled with so much drama and adult situations, they don’t have time to just experience life and what it means to be alive, even if for just a short time. Youth is the time to make mistakes, but to learn from them so those mistakes are not repeated later. When you are young you must explore and use the senses to ascertain things much as a toddler does when he or she first starts walking. How else can you learn about a whole world opened up for you if you do not make mistakes in it?
Life is so heavy. It is so encumbered with making huge decisions at such a young age when it should really be about discovery. It should be about turning away from mistakes and heading into another direction, down a different road.
My heart hurts for my friend. I have no way to fix things, and I know she it beaten up over something that began as a simple mistake and has now impacted life in what seems an endless montage of painful, complicated moments.
So back to my question. Is youth wasted on the young? It is generally stated rather than asked, and it is a really sad statement, as I believe that it is the job of those who are no longer in their youth, like me, to remind those who are still young just what youth is. I believe youth is wasted on the young when the young are not taught how to fully embrace it. And maybe it’s not up to parents to teach this. Maybe it’s about society doing this part. After all, if you define this statement within the context of young people out of high school, then it becomes the role of those who are on the scene during the young adult years. Employers, teachers, and people who are older who come in contact with the young and begin associations despite the age gap.
I have been most blessed to be a part of this young lady’s life I have been referencing, and I have no doubt she will rebound from what she is dealing with, walking through the fire a little singed, wiping off the ashes and soot as she walks away from what is still burning. But I hope she retains her resilience, and I hope she does not give up on her enjoyment of the little things in life that are really most recognized in youth, and I truly desire that she maintains her transparency.
I remember a statement made in the movie “Where the Heart Is”, Willy Jack Pickens says to Novalee (I may be paraphrasing a bit), “Sometimes you tell a lie so big it changes your whole life.” It may not be lies we tell to others. Sometimes the big lies, we tell ourselves, and they change everything. It is important in our youth to cultivate authenticity and transparency with ourselves, and if we do so, we will be much more likely to perpetuate this practice with others.
We must teach this and reinforce it to those in their youth. I am not working to solve my young friend’s problem. She is fully capable of moving through it with a little encouragement from those of us in her life who have survived the bombs that go off in the road. What I am most pressed to reinforce to her is that no matter what life throws at her, she must have an understanding of who she is, and that involves being honest in the arena that only she sees. She is only beginning to really know who she is, and as life continues to hone and shape her, will become more and more dimensional and complex as a person and as a woman.
I believe those of us who are older must invest in those who are younger in a way that encourages them to experience life but in a way that does not completely destroy their youth. We must teach that the most valuable thing about being young is the true essences of the person who is growing and learning from what he or she is experiencing.
It is not the experience itself, or even the choices in the experience that matter most. It is not even about the outcome of the experience. It is about the person and the growing of the individual in a way that invests in stamina, development, authenticity, and contribution. I will do whatever I can to reinforce these things in my friend. This is what matters, and youth is not wasted on the young when they are taught to truly experience it.