We give youth everything. We give them looks. We give them brains. We give them energy. We give them political power.
And then we sit aside and envy. Oh. If we were young, we’d be beautiful and so brilliant, incandescent in our energy and defining in our politics. If we were young, we would change the world.
No, we wouldn’t. The only reason we yearn for youth is that we’ve forgotten how profoundly disappointing it often was. This is what I remember from my twenties and I’m betting my recollections aren’t too different than many people who haven’t been young for a very long time.
For me, youth was a time when the peaches weren’t ripe but I thought they were. So I’d take a bite and have that awful peach disappointment. When a peach is ripe and perfect, it’s sublime. Otherwise, it’s a terrible trick.
Looking back, these were the disappointments of youth that I haven’t forgotten:
Unrelenting relationship angst – dating, not dating, being a couple, breaking up, getting back together, marriage, divorce, love on the rebound, infidelity, leaving, being left, ending the decade not having to share a 6-pack of beer.
Assumptions about my competence that were true – not knowing how to do much, making mistakes because I was too proud to ask, having an impossibly narrow view of the world, having to be told things that would be obvious just a few years later, no one looking to me for answers.
Being broke 90% of the time – being a single parent and making $5 an hour with no benefits, having health insurance I bought by sending in a postcard, my dentist offering to let me pay off my bill $10 a month.
Mothering without having read the book (or knowing there was a book) – envying June Cleaver but channeling Joan Crawford, treating my daughter like a child or my best friend, depending on the day, believing all the other mothers knew what they were doing.
Premature, stifling regret – feeling bad most of the time about decisions I’d made, thinking my mistakes were printed on my face and arms like florid tattoos, believing I would never get my life straight or make things right.
My twenties were tough. They were hard, messy years that I don’t miss or yearn for in any way. But my thirties, forties, fifties and sixties shared one characteristic – at any given time, any given year, I would have been happy to have been that age forever. I figured out how to live life and love it. It was a joy not being young.
Once I wasn’t young anymore, the peaches were all nice and ripe.
How will I stay young at heart? You’re Asking the Wrong Question
Written in response to The Daily Post prompt: Youth