People talk about wealth. They talk about happiness. And health. And love, fame and success. Not a whole lot is spoken about youth. I could be part of the problem and complain about that, but mine is literally slipping by the second, so I decided to be part of the solution. And started to write this.
So why isn’t youth as popular a topic as the other typical feel good ones? After all, the title of the highly overrated and utterly sub par Bollywood blockbuster says it pretty well- “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” (loosely translated, “this youth is intoxicating”). Maybe because it passes and no one has control over it. Maybe because the people in positions to talk are bitter about theirs having long been gone. Or maybe because I’m still on this side of the threshold and I’m missing something. Perhaps there’s something I don’t know.
What I do know is I still have mine, and I absolutely love it. Every second of it. I wake up every single day and thank my stars that I’m still young. It’s the shiniest treasure and the greatest blessing I can think of. And I happen to be in the sweet spot of age 21-22, where I have all of the freedom and none of the responsibilities, with just enough sense to fully enjoy it all.
I have immense faith in the universe, and I realize that god doesn’t play dice. Every living organism has a birth, death and a similar pattern of ageing along the way, so I’m sure every phase has its own unique relevance and beauty. I just can’t, for the life of me, figure out what it is.
Childhood, as magically as it may be portrayed, is a little bit of a lackluster prequel. For its most part, we’re all frankly too stupid to be relevant. We need to depend on others for everything without the realization that there’s no reason for us to be that entitled. We have no developed sense of decorum, protocol or the slightest clue of what the fuck is going on around us. Kids say the wrong things at the wrong time, and leave their parents with awkward, embarrassed smiles, and have them thinking of the slightest reason that could be used to explain why they called Aunt XYZ a “Gold Digger” (No really, I said “Goal Digger”). Moreover, this is an unnecessarily vulnerable age. My childhood had no major trauma(touch wood), with the exception of having to carry my study material on vacations. Not everybody is fortunate enough to grow up safe and content. A huge portion of kids in the world grow up in poverty, sketchy neighborhoods, dysfunctional families, neglect or with the loss of one or both parents. Their highly impressionable minds fail to process this in a healthy way leading to incalculable and irrevocable damage that hinders their state of mind for the rest of their lives.
And don’t even get me started on old age. The first day of retirement is one of the happiest, most light headed days in decades. You sleep in late, take the dog for a walk, play cards with your friends and watch a movie, all in the same day. And then, from the second day onward, you have no clue what to do with your life. And even a car accident might not kill you, but an idle mind will. Very few people are able to find an exciting new avenue that late in life, and even fewer who manage to pursue it. And if you do manage it, there’s this other issue… of getting older. The years of alcohol, cigarettes, lack of sleep and exercise, stress and unhealthy food habits begin to heavily weigh you down. Blood sugar rises, cholesterol is off the charts, the risk of a heart attack has tripled, your eyes stop working, your ears stop working, you have diarrhea, dementia, Alzheimer’s and the hips need to be replaced. Suddenly, you’re taking more pills than nutrients and the medical expense is more than what your wedding cost. You have all the time and money in the world, but no energy left to travel. Once again, you start to depend on others. And if you have a less than concerned family, there’s a hundred petty insults and humiliations that often come with it. You sort of “let go” of life and start to think of the regrets of the past and things like “who will cry when I die?” Basically, you become somewhat of a wacko. And all of this doesn’t sound appealing to me.
The middle age, is slightly underrated I believe. Even though the best years of your life are gone and the once wild and ambitious couple is reduced to a largely thrill-averse life of parenting, there is still a lot to capitalize on. You’ve had some solid work experience. You have the wisdom and lessons that 50 years of being alive brings with it. You have decent resources and are in a position to make anything happen. You’ve learnt the ins and outs of the world. Sadly, though, for most people this age, life is in a rut and not on a trampoline.
The glorious 10-15 years of one’s youth, on the other hand, are more magnificent and promising than I could describe in a thousand words. There’s rampant energy, a plethora of ideas and new found freedom. You can run, dance and the mind works at its peak level. There’s the unshakable belief that the world is your oyster. And even better, it is. You have the freedom to choose any life path you’d like, and the margin to re-route if need be. You’re allowed and on some level, expected to make mistakes. With that, comes the opportunity to learn, and grow. Every few years there’s a whole new exciting chapter of life unfolding, and there’s always enough to look forward to. Opportunity is plenty and responsibility is minimal. It’s the phase of life that’s full of all the best firsts- first drink, first job, first apartment, first kiss. It’s the time when temporary friendships have faded and you’re left with those few friends that have stuck by through it all, and you genuinely believe that it’ll last a lifetime. It is also the time where you make friends that become your closest advisers, confidants and the true worth of your network even 30 years later. I haven’t gone through it yet, but I’m almost absolutely certain, that your best memories come from here too. There’s all of this and there’s so much more that I can’t seem to be able to materialize into words. Most of all, there’s seemingly an abundance of the universe’s most precious resource – time. Unless you’re Bill Gates or The Dalai Lama, I’m sure everybody would like to go back in time for some reason or the other. Maybe to start that business they always wanted, or to be able to tell their mom how much they loved her. Good thing about youth is, you still have that chance. You still have time. As I realized at some point, you still don’t have an unlimited amount. But you have as much as you ever will, and the ability to capitalize on it. Time is always there and there’s never enough of it I suppose, but the ability to not be constantly reminded of how much of it is gone is what lets us truly enjoy it. Really, if I were god, everyone would be born at age 18, and after a hundred years you’d die at about 25. Okay 27, because 25 is the legal drinking age in Delhi, and I need some time to enjoy the legal version of it. (Seriously though, 25?)
Even after this prolonged, opinionated piece comparing the several phases of life, I do believe youth is not an age group, it’s a state of mind. Well maybe not, but I refuse to believe that we have to live (or not live) a particular way just because we’ve spent a certain number of years breathing air. Listen to your gut, take some risks, laugh more often, don’t sweat the small stuff, be selfish when it comes to the things that make you happy, and approach life with love and gratitude, and there’s no reason why your youth will not follow you to your grave.
But then again, I’m young. What do I know ?