Youth is fickle, as is time, though we’d like to believe otherwise. So why are we so scared of growing old? Age is quite an intriguing matter. As I grow older I try to console myself by telling myself that there are many that are still older than me. Songs tell us to enjoy our youth, they say you only live once, they say we need to make mistakes and we should always be happy. Isn’t that a little presumptuous? Maybe it’s just me. Now when I watch ‘coming of age’ films I feel like I am being tricked into believing that my youth is the most glamorous part of my life. That I will find myself, I will suddenly burst out of a cocoon like a butterfly and the love of my life will help me do so.
It seldom happens that people become adults the way songs and movies show they do. My youth is just another phase in my life that is passing. The world has set the benchmark for youth as 30, it’s an unspoken rule and suddenly when you cross that line you’re considered done with the prime of your life. I am in my early 20s, I still have time left, but nothing much has changed since I was a teenager. Of course, I’m lonelier, I am stronger, heartbreak feels more real than it did when I was in my teens. We’re all so protective of our youth and are overly possessive of it even if there is no reason to be.
I used to think people were protecting their memories not their youth per say, and then I realised I was wrong, when people heard the word ‘thirty’ they would look at me like I swore at them. They tell me, “Why are you reminding me?” But what’s so shocking about it, what makes us nervous about growing older? I used to think that maybe I was worried I was running out of time. But then, that was my thinking. We’re chasing after youth, and it works against us. The more time we spend looking for experiences that define our youth, the more we’re going to be disappointed when we grow old because we’ll know we should have focussed on other things.
Today, I saw young, urban people rushing to climb onto a bus. Once on the bus, they plugged in their earphones and continued texting whoever they were before. These practices have become reflex actions. When their eyes were on their blinking phones, I saw the bus nearly hit a motorcyclist and the two drivers were yelling profanity. Not once did the youth look up to see what was happening and the driver eventually drove on, and their heads remained bent. We might not bend our heads at temples, but keep a mobile phone in the sanctum sanctorum and I’m sure everybody will bow their heads. Our world is that metallic screen and we’ll do anything to hold on to it.
We’re talking about youth but it’s really about where your loyalties lie. People keep saying that in your youth is the ideal time to travel. I’ve travelled a fair bit for leisure and soul-searching, and wherever I’ve gone, I’ve seen plenty of youngsters clicking a thousand selfies per minute, the monument interests them till they’ve got a good shot, the next four hours they’ll spend trying to find Wi-Fi connectivity, so they can upload the photos. The older adults, perhaps beyond milestone 30 don’t reach for their phones the minute they enter the gate. They take it all in, they’ll even sit by the monument trying to feel what the people who built it felt. They’ll click photos but as keepsakes and not for validation.
This is just one example, youth has changed over time. In Ancient Greece, a boy became a man when he turned 14. Over time we’ve tried to buy time, pushing up the age limits. Even now only the government considers you an adult at 18, institutions don’t, and your family will forever consider you a child. With time the definition of youth has changed. The youth want to be youthful and talk about, living and exploring. Many do, but there are many who would rather just stay in their room playing Dota or Counter-Strike. Some associate youth with a lack of responsibility which everybody loves.
We’re all just a speck in history, what we’ll leave behind as the youth are not love letters, but hearts carved on the walls of timeless monuments, within which are written, “Rahul + Sweety” or the classic, “Bunty was here”. The youth of today are the ones crying for more time without really spending more than 2 minutes on their surroundings or on making noodles. The words ‘instant’ and ‘fast food’ were custom made for us. We don’t have letters and diaries to bear testament to our lives we’re going to leave behind search histories and screenshots. Comics are a thing of the past we’re going to leave behind memes. We better brace ourselves.
P.S. This only refers to a certain type of youth today, it doesn’t refer to everyone and should not be considered a generalisation.