Not As Old
I am seventeen in June, and not sad in the least. There seems to be a dread that overcomes everyone as they approach and pass their eighteenth birthday: we are growing older. But what are we afraid of? That to grow up you must suffocate your dreams and succumb to a mundanity that doesn’t suit you? That you must attend university, get in debt, receive a degree, become employed, get married, get a house, get a mortgage, get in debt again, have children, raise them, retire, die?
If this sounds like a nightmare, than by all means, by every lick of wit and determination you possess, don’t make it your reality! Do whichever of these that would please you and skip the rest, or forgo them all, if none appeal. Only you can keep yourself from the life you dream of. You define your own adulthood, you define your age. I am now just as excited to be an adult, as I was to be a child. I don’t believe I have to become someone I’m not to enter adulthood, I don’t have to conform to fit some preconceived picture, and in knowing this, the years ahead are not intimidating, the idea of growing older is not unsettling.
Are anti-aging products, and make-up, created to prey on pre-existing insecurities, or are they the very ones who plant the seeds of insecurity within us, that we then feed and water? We’re told wrinkles and contours are un-comely, to be abhorred. Well, tell me, why would I want to banish my laugh lines, and look like some uptight soul who’s never let loose? These marks are our stories, the map of our lives written in flesh.
"These lines and spaces, across our faces, are maps and memories of where we've been" - Not As Old, Paper Aeroplanes
We cram everything we can into our schedules and then forget to relish in the little moments. We accuse time of going too quickly, when it is not time, but us, who are the culprits of living too quick, and in our busyness, we sometimes forget we are alive, and this is something to celebrate every day, day after day after day, that you are breathing, that you’ve been given another day to do something again, to do your best, to help someone, to help yourself, to live your dreams, to see the world, to laugh until you’re red in the face, to expand your mind, to see the universe open up before you, and most of all, to love with wild abandon. We must realise this.
I can’t predict the future, however, I know that when I’m afraid of something happening or not happening, when I’m nervous or excited about something happening or not happening, when I’m sad about something that happened or didn’t happen – essentially when I feel any flood of emotion, I know that I have found something that is important to me. I know that if there is sadness about something that that object, person, place, occurrence is potential occurrence, past occurrence, or current occurrence is important to you. I know that if I’m happy about something – if it feels good in every cell of body – that that path, person, place of potential also something that tells me about my quality of life, about what is important, what needs to stay.
We do however need to practice and safeguard ourselves from sacrificing longer term pleasures for short term gains. This is the true work in life. I’ll never forget Conan O’Brien, another of my unconventional idols (he looks like my older brother) saying:
“When you have enthusiasm, you can do anything.”
I have many friends I see who are externally strong, yet inside they are crumbling like the sandcastles they’d built years earlier on raging shores, and I've been there too. I have friends who are bubbly and bright, friends with everyone, busying themselves endlessly, and yet they are lonelier and more afraid than any person I know, and I've been there also. The thing that breaks my heart is that we try. I try, too. We are doing our best, and yet that never seems to be enough.
Until this year in school, I'd only once before failed a test. This year, I failed a few things, or only barely pasted by the skin of my teeth. Yet, something that came to mind the other day was the realisation that many of the people I know brush over our disappointments and our shames, our embarrassments. And realise that made me wonder- why do we do that? Why do we not take pride in knowing that we tried? I heard someone talking today, about someone who had said they failed because they hadn't studied, and this person was saying, 'I don't see why, studying and failing and just failing are the same. He still failed.' And I disagreed. Failing after working hard for something, trying, is not failing. It's trying. Failing with no effort? Now, that's just failing. Maybe you'll disagree, I don't know. Honestly- is there a right or wrong in this?
Then I began thinking about the wetter and heavier emotions, the sadness's and disappointments we all go through. Why do we gloss over them, and pretend that they’re not there? I can hear it in your voice, see it in your eyes and sense it in your movements. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on? Why don’t we tell each other, as humans, what’s really going on?
I’m not sure what it’s good for, because I can’t stand living a life like that. I care about YOU. You under that extra stuff, I want to see you after you’ve weathered those emotions and felt the rain on your face, gotten your blow-dried hair wet in the summer showers and stood in front of an audience and forgotten what to say. I want to see your failed test, the one you tried so hard to pass. I’m tired of striving to be 'perfect' if such a thing exists. I realised that this year. With failure came the opportunity to improve, to get better. The opportunity to realise that it's not always about life's highs, but the low's as well. I’m ready for REAL. Give me REALITY( not reality television though). I want REALITY as it is, which is heavy and sad and hard and joy and love and tears and spit and anger and desire and soil and eyes and teeth and hair and hands and hurt and happiness and beauty and real and real and real and real and real.
I want to see people as they really are. That is who I know you to be. Both, all of it. Everything. You are empty and you are full to the brim. You are you and you are me and you are everything. Feel the life coursing through you. You are your greatest adventure, your best resource: Give yourself all you’ve got. I’m with you, giving you, ‘it’, everything my all, too. It’s all I’ve got.
All we can do is try.
I have a sense that this, failure, is one of the true delights of being alive. The idea that you have the most power to alter your own existence, change your goals, improve, change, embrace reality. Who else has that power? We have a choice. You are either living your life as you choose, or you are not. You are either happy with what you chose, or you are not. I think this is common sense, but sometimes, and perhaps this is simply due to attention span distortion from the vapid sensory stimulation I exist within as a young person living in todays world.
Why do we get cold feet, itchy feet, restless legs, wandering minds, irritable every-things? What purpose does it have, what purpose does ego have, the ability to dream have? Evolution? To constantly push the boundaries, express and explore? I recognise ego within me, I recognise my flightiness at times and my cold, restless legs, my wandering, irritable mind. I recognise that I do not want to live with those legs or that mind. I notice that there are patterns, which is something we as humans are amazingly adept with, for better or worse. I have become wary of that which others deem worth being aware of (for better or worse). I am open. I am as free as possible. I rebel and rail against my constraints and wriggle a lot sometimes. Sometimes I even scream and slam my fists against whatever safe and sturdy surface is available. See how it’s really all perfect; all designed just as one wishes it would be? We wouldn’t have it any other way, because we haven’t dreamt it up otherwise yet. Such is the purpose of dreaming: To further evolve, to stir up stagnation and see what we might possibly, unimaginably create with this tool called the mind. We don’t even know what it is, really.
Why do I share all of this? It is just what there is to share at the moment. I think a lot about getting older, even though I'm still so young. You might be older than me, or younger, but maybe, just maybe you already have the answers I am searching so ardently for. That is why I write to you, my dear friends.
To remind you that you're not as old as you think. That wherever you are life, we must embrace it. We must share our joys, but also our sorrows. Our triumphs and failures. We must be united, we must be strong.