Youth isn’t wasted on the young, it is left behind by the old; waiting to be picked up, brushed off, and tuned up again like that old guitar from college in your attic.
Characters of the World
In the last five or six years, during my travel and adventures, I encountered dozens upon dozens of what I call characters of the world. I wish I had carried around a recorder to capture some of the insights and stories of those I met along the way. Although I can’t recount every detail or journey I came upon, I still have managed to retain a great deal of the knowledge and wisdom bestowed on me by those fellow characters of the world.
A Man at the Airport
One of the more memorable conversations I had was with a man I met a few years ago at Heathrow airport in London. I was waiting for my departing flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. After brief small talk of “Hi, where are you from?” “I wish airport lounge chairs were more comfortable”, he started telling me some of his regrets. After hearing about how he wished he traveled more, worked less, and ate more vegetables, he paused and looked on for a moment. He then turned to me and said with an undertone of bitterness, “I wish I could go back and change a few things. It’s a shame but Oscar was right, youth is wasted on the young.” I admittedly took this as an insult at first, primarily because I scoffed at the idea that 22 was young.
Am I wasting Youth?
Didn’t he know that I was an adult? I had been legal to drink in the USA for over a year so that meant my youth was already on the decline. What was left after turning 21 other than car rentals at 25 and becoming a member of AARP at 50? I quickly shook the notion that this was an insult and decided to sit with his statement as I waited for my flight. Youth. What was this youth he was referring to and how were “we” wasting it?
Carrying those words
Since that conversation, I have carried those words with me. In my decision-making processes in life, adventure, and love I’ve said to myself “They say youth is wasted on the young, Well, I am young and I don’t want to waste it.”
I write today to tell you that youth is not wasted on the young, because contrary to popular belief, youth holds NO expiration date. It is a constant presence that only gets ignored as an individual adheres to more of the social constructs of becoming an “adult”. Youth is a mindset that allows you to question, seek, and find yourself, over and over again. It’s what was with you as you navigated the hallways of high school freshman year. Youth carried you through high school as you embarked on explorations and experimental phases with friends, family, and your first tastes of figuring-out-life. Youth brought you through these times and carried you into the next chapter of your life. You left this youth upon your proverbial exit from childhood to maturity. Luckily, unlike a cellphone on the subway or $20 dollar bill dropped on the street, youth cannot be taken. It is waiting there for you to come back and carry it with you.
He was Wrong
If I ever got to see that man from the airport again, I would tell him with conviction and certainty that he was wrong in the rightest way. One of the most frustrating and satisfying feelings is thinking you lost something only to discover it was right under your nose the whole time. Even if he spent the last 40 years yearning for a feeling and sense of self that he always had the ability to uncover, can’t we all take a little solace in the fact that it was never out of his reach?
Take more Action
Don’t be that man at the airport with the undertone of bitterness. Take more action, invoke more sense of self to see that youth is a state of being that just needs your consent in order to be felt. Youth is wasted on anyone, any age that chooses to let it go.
Like that guitar in the attic from college, go pick it up, brush it off, tune it up, and play the tunes that make you feel alive.
Youth never leaves You
Don’t let your youth collect dust. Frank found someone, so you go out and find something that makes you feel young again. And remember that it was never gone, it’s right where you left it.