Salutations, beloved readers. I hope you had an excellent holiday.
We come now to classes and the multiple tediums of our lives, punctuated by the bright spots of the people we love.
Returning to campus invites, quite reasonably, an eye towards the future. Are you eager? Are you full of dread? Does the future frighten you?
The future invites fear by the very virtue of its uncertainty. But the abstractions of “the future” are nothing, I think, to the very concrete realities of aging, and I think this anxiety has become woefully central to our generation’s culture.
What comes to mind most immediately is Thought Catalog. For those unaware, Thought Catalog is a website that provides a space for young writers, mostly in their twenties, to discuss matters relevant, or what I’ve been told is relevant, to our peer set. These paeans to the challenges of the Millennial life have struck a chord and made Thought Catalog into one of the more popular blogs around.
The writing is usually of fine enough quality and there is the piece of insight here and there, but Thought Catalog is overstuffed with paeans to passion quickly snuffed and casual drug addictions.
There’s value to these experiences, but there’s more to life than this. I use Thought Catalog affectionately and only as an example, not a whipping horse. Thought Catalog’s odes come from the same basis that argues that your twenties are your time to “really” live; that life ends when you get your “real” job and settle into adult routine (whatever that means).
The basis I speak of is youth worship, a cultural obsession with newness and novelty.
To be sure, the twenties are a novelty. It is a time when most strike out. They cartwheel into action, feel pain in all its dizzying heights. Pioneers, o pioneers, etc. etc.
This time in our lives is a launch pad into new things, not a pleasure dome to while away as we await the approach of our inevitable doom (the age of thirty).
We must open up to the world and understand that there is something distinctly subtle about the navigation of situations. The twenties are a time to learn, to make mistakes and then move on. Placed upon a pedestal, youth goes out of time and becomes ahistorical.
There is no “moving on” when youth is articulated as such.
Instead, one passes through their youth and then awaits death as they nurse the apocalyptic memories of their glorious young adulthood. Youth becomes an ideal as opposed to a particularity.
Do not – o gracious, please do not – mistake this for some curmudgeonly hate storm. Youthfulness brings a natural vitality that I find thrilling.
I have had moments when I was full to burst with the anxious propulsion that sprang from the fact that I was twenty-years old. I do not have a long memory to consult when new dangers approach and the uncertainty knocks me over and lifts me up.
I love being where I am in my life, but there is comfort in the knowledge that I will learn and change.
What I have to offer the world is not my singular best. I can only offer what my best is right now. And by recognizing this multiplicity, I free myself from obsession.
After all, tomorrow is another day, and in taking this advice seriously, I release myself from the terror that this is all there is.
So much is open to us. But we were told a great and terrible lie: that everything led only to this and everything else is a drifting away from the righteous garden of our youth. Turn away from this. There are mysteries in you, big thoughts and big feelings that you will understand with time, though it is a harsh beast.
In the meantime, let us drink deep from our youth and hope that we will hold on to what is valuable and cast away all that insults our spirit.
Rhett Henry is a College junior from Lawrenceville, Ga.