Here’s the thing about young people: they only exist in relation to how old you are. When you’re ten years old, you can look at someone who is six and get all caught up in the nostalgia of what life was like four years ago for you. This actually has nothing to do with the kid you’re looking at; they have a whole different past and future, and some of the things that changed for you between those ages might not change for them at all. Besides that, they may be way smarter or dumber than you; all kinds of things come into play when we’re talking about personal development, and time is among the least of them.
When I first heard it, I was immediately exasperated with this phrase: youth is wasted on the young, indeed. Just a few years of experience taught me that plenty of kids make the most out of their lives, and plenty of others don’t. Usually these same kids keep at it, as they get older; but some people peak in high school, and it’s all downhill from there. Youth wasn’t wasted on them, I don’t think; if anything, adulthood is wasted on them. I met plenty of people when I was in my twenties who wished for the good old days of childhood. As a kid who couldn’t wait to grow up, I was super happy to have my life to myself. That has never changed, and I would argue that neither stage of life has been wasted on me.
As you can guess, I am not a big fan of this saying. It may be true, in many instances; but the exception disproves the rule, when it comes to things as important as individual lifetimes. The saying may come from the fact that we tend to progress along pretty similar timelines in modern society. Yet at the same time, it is the outliers that define each generation in the long term; and to revisit my earlier point, a ninety year old dude might look at someone who is only sixty and spout this same useless phrase with about as much meaning as an adult looking at a child.
Yeah, this one is kind of a bunch of crap.
I’ll just come right out and say it.
When I was barely an adult, I worked with guys who were in their thirties and forties and fifties. I still do, in fact. All this time later, one thing hasn’t changed. Back then, the guys in their thirties said it would be hard to keep the weight off when I got to their age, and the guys in their forties told me I should enjoy my abundant energy while I still had it. They all told me my youth was wasted on me, and I argued every time they did. Now that I’m in my forties, I just laugh at the fifty-something guy when he tries to tell me what lies ahead for me. I remember what his type said, back when I was twenty and they were thirty.
I was always pretty sure life was actually going to get easier, as I got older; I just needed to play my cards right. Just as childhood is a time to collect wounds, early adulthood is a time to either heal them or get used to hurting. Once we become accustomed to making ourselves whole, no matter what befalls us, new experiences stop being something to fear. We may need to make adjustments as we get older, and work out hard enough to fool our bodies into thinking we’re not getting older; but this work is pretty cake, when compared to the effort required to build a functioning identity in the modern world.
Back in the day, I used to party pretty hard. Now, I have it down to a science. I know just how much scotch I can have and not feel crappy the next day, and I keep track no matter how buzzed I get. In those early days, I was a bit out of control from one point of view; but from another, I was constantly being reigned in by my own limitations. Now I pop out of bed pretty early in the morning, even if I got nicely toasted the night before; back then, I used to be late for work on a regular basis. When I did show up, I was pretty useless more often than not. I can’t say whether or not my limitations changed; but I can say I’ve learned to live within them with a lot more freedom as time has gone by.
The truth is, a lot of people seem to settle for something other than what they really want. Some guys complain about how they can’t get into their wives, and then will ogle every girl that walks by. They do the same with their jobs, wishing they were somewhere else while doing just enough to get by at the profession they actually chose for themselves. I think this is where this saying comes from; although they were probably much the same when they were younger, it can be easier to look back fondly than to forge ahead with determination.
Life is as difficult as we make it, when it comes right down to it; but I could see fairly early on that if I took on some hard stuff right out of the gate, I could make sure it got easier later. It did, too; and I have trouble feeling sympathy for the people who have had decades to learn some basic life lessons and have chosen to eschew that education. Some people might have true tragedies alter their paths forever; but most folks don’t, and that’s who this discussion is about.
Anyone who thinks life is easier when you’re younger either got broken by extreme circumstances or isn’t doing it right. The challenges may get harder; but that’s because checkers gets boring after awhile, and the spirit within longs to start over at a more difficult and complicated game. Conveniently enough, chess has been waiting there the whole time; you just have to learn it. What we may lose in recovery time is more than offset by applying a lifetime’s learning of time saving techniques, and very few of us would willingly go back to the beginning if we couldn’t take the lessons we’ve learned along with us.
Maybe every moment we don’t spend pursuing our passion is really the wasted time, and that means I’m as guilty of this sin as anyone. For years, I knew what I wanted to do and didn’t do it; even now, I am seldom happy with the amount of writing I get done on any given day. The lessons I learned by letting so much time pass were important to my writing process today, but that doesn’t mean I don’t ever wonder what I would have written back then if I had begun to structure things this way earlier.
So…perhaps youth is wasted on the young, and perhaps it isn’t. Maybe this is another thing we should look at on a case by case basis, along with most of the things we tend to generalize. Also, we might do well to remember that original point: unless you’re the oldest person in the world, you’re young to someone else. If you survive to see tomorrow, you of today will be a younger you when you look back on it for all the rest of your days. Age can’t really be both a state of mind and a number on your driver’s license at the same time; but it’s always a good idea to make the most of every moment, no matter how old you are.
Yeah, I think that about wraps it up.
Now, if you’ll excuse me…I have some television to watch.
Thanks for reading!
All the best,