“Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.” -George Bernard Shaw
Shaw is incorrect; at least by my standards. Youth is beautiful but terrible too – the only ones who are capable of facing it are the young. Each age has its own trials and tribulations but youth is by far one of the most tumultuous times in our lives. Upon nostalgic reflection youth is usually seen through a rose coloured lens but while one is experiencing the actual process of maturity it can seem dark and bleak.
I’m on the cusp of adulthood. At age eighteen I am no longer classified as a teen; however, despite the fact that my age allows me to complete several adult activities including voting or enlisting in the army, I am still not a fully fledged adult.
Nevertheless, in true youthful fashion I assume that I am more grown up than I am. I’ve always been an old soul. I grew up spending more time with adults than with other children and I’m an only child who is quite close with her parents. These factors lent me strength and a sense of understanding that, at times, traverses my age.
But I’m still young; too often I tend to neglect that fact. I worry, constantly, about various topics – work, school, family, friends etc. I think I like to believe that my worry puts me into the category of a responsible adult – because I’m thinking of the consequences of my actions I suppose. I’m making completely informed decisions, though I confess that I tend to go overboard with the research sometimes; I just like to be thorough.
So, I’m an adult, right? Wrong. The actual assumption made by a statement like that is what showcases how young I truly am.
Last week I had a disagreement with my mother and it caused me to reflect on my youth. We disagreed about me going to see The Band Perry at Bluesfest last Thursday. She was worried because a) that’s what parents do, b) the concert was late at night and c) they would be out and wouldn’t be able to drive me home from the bus station. So, without the option of driving myself or taking a local bus home due to the timing of the concert I proposed that I would take a cab home.
A sweet and simple solution – at least, I thought so, but transport wasn’t at the heart of her concern for me. You see, I had been attending Bluesfest alone. I was surrounded by people but I made no effort to connect with people I could trust to attend with me. My excuse, which still stands – to a certain degree in my mind – was that I needed to be able to do things on my own.
This was my first time attending the festival and I wanted to expand my individual experiences – in short, I wanted to go alone, broaden my horizons and be independent.
I returned from a meeting the night before the concert and decided to cut off my bracelet that allowed me entry into the venue. I even asked my mom to do it, but in the end she told me that she’d thought it over and she was okay with me going to the concert. I was a little surprised but altogether pleased with the outcome.
It wasn’t until the night after the concert that I saw how valid her concerns were. *In case you’re wondering I ended up bumping into a few friends at the concert who incidentally live on my street and they drove me home from the bus stop.
The event that prompted my revelation wasn’t even remotely related to the concert or even the music they played. I was dealing with a technological issue regarding my email not sending or receiving mail and not accepting my password. I was frantic for three hours, working and researching the problem. I had to cancel plans with a friend I haven’t seen in months because of my ridiculous need to overload my schedule.
It was my last free day before I worked a four day conference and I had created a long, complex “To Do” list to complete during the day. Unfortunately, due to my technological issues I was unable to a accomplish a significant amount of my projects that day. So, as a last ditch effort I called my dad who said something that stuck with me. Though I cannot quote him verbatim I can tell you the gist of his wisdom was, “You need to learn to structure your schedule!”
Needless to say, I took a breather after we got off the phone. I felt awful, closed off and angry. I took stock of what my stress had helped me mess up. It had prompted me to break plans with an important friend for the third time and it certainly did not help me sleep at night nor did it contribute to my overall pursuit of contentment. I was frustrated with myself because I was at a loss and everything came crashing down on me when I hung up that phone. A tidal wave of an unhappy and uncomfortable emotion overwhelmed me.
That’s when it hit me. These were the actions of a youth. I am young, younger than I wish to be at times but I’ve often been counselled not to wish my life away.
I am by no means invincible or perfect. My greatest weaknesses are my youth, my inexperience, my naiveté, but those qualities are simultaneously my greatest strengths.
In this moment I am as young as I will ever be and I’m learning that that process cannot be rushed. It frustrates me that I am young and that I cannot know everything I wish to know yet. I’m working on confronting the fact that I’m not capable of doing everything – that I cannot be in twelve different places at once.
I must, beyond all else, cherish this youth – my youth.
In response to Mr. Shaw, youth is not wasted on the young although I think I understand where he is coming from. Every generation of youths rebels, in one form or another. We’ve struck out through the Occupy movement, via Facebook posts and irate email chains. We’ve written stories and poems that expose us as the “Lost Generation.”
Those before us had Woodstock, the beatnik years and the first internet boom, among other events. We try so hard to separate ourselves from those that preceded us but we only succeed in following in their footsteps. That doesn’t mean we are failing – we’re simply promoting our message in the most current and accessible way possible.
If youth was lived by anyone other than the young, we would be robbing our world of its future. So, Mr. Shaw, I respectfully decline to subscribe to your insight regarding youth.
What a crime it would be to deprive us of these tempestuous, and taxing times – when else would we learn to feel infinite and finite at the same time?
How else could we discover ourselves if we did not make mistakes at a time when we truly don’t know any better?
Who would we become if we were never young?