I turned 29 on Sunday. As the media would have it, I am therefore no longer in the prime of my youth. I’m still young, sure, but I’m in the mature category on X Factor. I am not welcome at youth groups, except maybe as a leader. The ideal time to have babies is allegedly two years in my past. I’m young but I am not a Youth. I haven’t been for some time.
People say such funny things. Forty is the new thirty. Fifty the new forty… But approaching thirty? I’ve heard it said that time speeds up. That you turn around and suddenly you are sixty, and you look back and it seems you only blinked and the years passed you by. I don’t want that.
Every year I make a resolution, not for the calendar year but for my birthday, for myself. Conveniently, that does fall just two days after the new year. But still.
This year my resolution is to make the year count. However that may be, whatever it entails. PhD, New job, writing published, whatever it is. I don’t want to blink and be looking back on thirty with tears of regret in my eyes. I want to look back and see that each year meant something. That it all counted. I’m sure it’s cliche and everyone has said it at one point or another. Who cares? Is it still a cliche if it’s true? Isn’t every cliche a cliche because it was, at some point, true?
Another old saying: youth is wasted on the young and wisdom on the old. I don’t think youth is wasted on the young. In the 1920s, convinced another war was coming, many people lived their life close to the edge. They thought the world was old and didn’t know what the new might mean. They lived as if there were no tomorrow. For some people, that’s youth. It’s hard to imagine being significantly older than you are, so you live as though you never will be. That makes some people reckless.
That’s not everyone. Many people do live carefully, treat their lives as fragile. But even that is a protection against the terror of losing youth, becoming different.
I don’t know if youth- I’m talking under-25 here, and don’t know whether that is an accurate measure- was wasted on me. Knowing the things I know now, with the wisdom I now have (which may be much greater when I am old…) Would I still have made the same decisions? I’m not sure. I might have treated myself with greater care, knowing that the scars of mistreatment are permanent. I might have been kinder, or bolder, knowing that life past 25 exists. But I might not have!
I remember being 16 and feeling like nobody over 20 was gay, or mixed race. It was such a confusing time in my life. Had I known then that I would still exist now, that I would discover people like me, I might have been happier. But that’s the rub- you can’t know these things. In hindsight it’s much easier to say what you coulda shoulda woulda.
Youth is not wasted on the young, if it is used, any more than drinking water wastes water.
Wisdom is not wasted on the old, if it is used, any more than wearing clothes wastes clothes.
In many, many years I suppose I’ll find out…