Youth is considered by many to be the most vibrant, colorful, vivid period of one’s life, filled with dangerous risks and spontaneous voyages. Adults recall their reckless teenage years with a fond smile and twinkling eyes, and some like to point out that they may be ‘60 but 16 at heart’. This has led me to often wonder what was so special, so unique about youth that had them clutching the memories close to their hearts and cherishing them for so long.
If you type in ‘youth’ in the Google search engine, image upon image of smiling, laughing teenagers decked in lively rainbow colors spill out, reinforcing the definitions of the word we already hold in our minds: teenagers. Energetic, enthusiastic teenagers.
However, I look at middle-aged men throwing away their ordinary, mundane lives in pursuit of their wild childhood fantasies and think, youth. I look at little children competing with their friends on playground swings, shrieking as they try to swing as high as possible, and think, youth. I look at elderly women who are mothers, grandmothers and even great-grandmothers creating all sorts of opportunities for themselves—graduating from colleges, getting important jobs, achieving amazing goals—and think, youth.
So no, I don’t think youth means dressing up in fancy clothes and partying until dawn, or at least isn’t confined to such tight boundaries. Instead, I believe that youth simply means feeling young—like you’ve got all the time in the world, and like you can’t make a single wrong decision. I believe that youth is, essentially, an emotion instead of a number, a vague sensation rather than a specific length of time—in other words, a state of mind, not a state of being.
According to that definition, your youth doesn’t begin as you blow out the candles on your thirteenth birthday and end as your kids start calling you “too old” to be excited over animation movies; it begins when you want it to. Even as you grow and your responsibilities pile up, challenge yourself to enjoy the fleeting moments and chase the dreams you’re truly passionate about—not because they’re never going to return, but because you deserve the chance at happiness regardless of where you stand in life.
And to all the young people out there: we’re young. It’s okay to be scared and worried about the approaching future, and it’s more than fine to feel lost. But like Jack Gilbert says in his poem, Failing and Flying, “anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” So let’s make those mistakes, take those chances, and seek those adventures. Let’s fly towards the sky and shoot for the moon, while catching the sparkling, shining stars in our palms—and if we fall, we can always dust ourselves off and soar back up, sailing even higher than before. Let’s be young, and let’s embrace our youth.