Missing Youth

“We’re not gonna take it. No, we ain’t gonna take it. We’re not gonna take it anymore,” Twisted Sister.

Eurorail train schedules, Let’s Go Europe, and maps surrounded the unemployed 23 year old. He was planning out his backpacking through Europe summer. Responsibility and reality be damned. The epitome of freedom and youth.

“Larry,” my father shouted as he came into my room undetected.

I jumped, “Oh, hi dad.’

“Does the music have to be so loud?”

“Sorry.” I turned down the music.

“What is all the stuff,” he motioned at the paraphernalia that decorated my floor.

“Planning my summer trip.”

“Oh.” He shook his head, half smiled, and walked away after reminding me to keep the music lower.

I looked at the information around me, contemplated my looming weeks long trip, and considered my unemployed status. I felt guilty. Then, I got over it.

Yesterday, I was assisting a girl with her college application essay. During the tutoring session, she started talking to her mother. “Mommy,” she said “I am going create an empire.” She was certain that the business she had recently begun was bound for big things. I raised my eyebrows but said nothing. Her mother smiled a yes dear smile. The girl bubbled on so proud of her declaration that she wrote it down.

Another college recruiter visited my senior class. He talked about his school and how attending there will enable the students to achieve their academic goals. This of course will enable them to fulfill their dreams. Never mind the 70 average.

“I’m happy she is getting a chance to go away,” she explained. “But when I dropped her off, I felt a little jealous.”  So my fellow writer said at a recent writer’s group meeting. She clearly felt a little guilty. There was no need to apologize as the rest of us – parents with children in various stages – shook our heads feeling the same such feelings.

It’s not youth we want. It’s the unbound enthusiasm. It’s the certainty that everything is not only possible but a mere question of when.

I wish good things for my tutee, my students, and my co-writer’s daughter. I hope they achieve big and great things. They are in an amazing and exciting stage in their lives.

By the time you reach a certain age, there is some level of stuckness (I know it’s not a word, but it so fits). Whatever you’re level of contentment – nice family, decent job, comfortable home – choices have been made, life is being lived, and dreams come in size small.

The world is not our oyster. It’s not free for the taking. As adults, we know this. Lumps can and will be doled out. I, for one, am okay with that. I will cope and be happy for the dreams of the kids around me, hopeful about fulfilling my goals, and content with the wisdom I have gained.

40 thoughts on “Missing Youth

  1. Stuckness….nice word. But it is a good stuckness though, without the stuckness we wouldn’t have a lot of the things that make us happy now (although with a slightly more restraint enthusiasm).

  2. It’s interesting. I have this stuckness, and I’m very okay with it. At the time of my life when I was very un-stuck, I traveled, lived in various places and did different things (before I married and had kids). But now it’s sort of like a different person did those things. I guess I have made peace with this loss of youthful exuberance and idealism.

  3. We married very young, 16 and 19. One would think we would have that stuckness once our boys arrived (one when I was 19, the other at 21). But we weren’t. Through the years we set goals, achieved them, and went on to do something else. Our boys were part of that process, and they had great adventures with their dad and I. Then, when the boys grew up and left home, we finally had the opportunity to live our dream of working our way around the world. Only this time we had a three year old to take with us. We lived in London, Hong Kong, and New Zealand – and then back to the US. It took us seven years, and we loved every minute of it.

    I guess we never saw the difficulties as anything more than a challenge to get to our goals. We lived in dinky houses, drove old cars, and did without a lot of the luxuries to afford to travel all over with our boys, and then with Crystal. I don’t think we have ever lost that youthful exuberance for life. If you see two old farts driving down the road on a Harley, it just might be us. There is still so much to see and do, we just have to sort out the how of it. Along with introducing our grandchildren to international travel, museums, history, and a love of books.

    • 16 – wow!! Is that legal? It sounds like you have certainly lived a full life to this point.
      May you continue to enjoy that youthful exuberance. However, please don’t run me over with your Harley!

      • It was legal back in the dark ages of the 1970’s. We have lived a wonderful life, filled with adventures, heart break, laughter, and tears – with a few temper tantrums thrown in for the heck of it. I won’t run you down with my Harley, but I will be h*ll on wheels when I switch to a motorized scooter. . .

  4. I too know “stuckness!” Somehow, I’m feeling more of the exuberance of youth – I’ve always been a late bloomer ;-), than I’ve ever felt before. Perhaps it is simply contentment, but whatever it is, I’ll take more of it! Great topic and post!

  5. Stuckness … well that was a good one. And I too know the feeling BUT am trying to do everything in my power right now to get un-stuckness. Some days I feel like my life is just beginning and the rest of it was just the warm up to get me here.

  6. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to the teen years, but yes, I admire their hopefulness. Sometimes I envy it, but deep down inside I’m rooting for them too. I really do hope they change the world.

  7. “Unbound enthusiasm” – love that phrase! I do miss that time in youth when the world could be anything – limitless almost. But I also like my “stuckness” to a degree, too. It is nice to have a career I love and a family that loves me. I guess my enthusiasm has changed with age! Great, great post! 🙂

  8. Hi,
    I must admit that I read your article yesterday upon my first day back in the office, but didn’t know how to put into words my own feelings. For once, you caught me speechless. What bothered me was your summation, “dreams come in size small.” You see, it is my belief that the world is like an oyster that opens up at any age. It depends on how you see the world and how big your picture is. I heard once from one of my professors that Albert Einstein said, we do not use not even one fourth of our brain. I agree with that. We are so bent on limiting those things that we do do, setting borders for our talents and not reaching beyond ourselves, that we have limited our capactiy to grow.

    If it were so that oysters stop opening up at a certain age, then Thomas Edison would have given up at a very young age and never become the inventor that he was. That man had more patents in his time than any other persons. Or look at Colonel Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The man was sixty-five years old when he finally got a breakthrough. What if he had contented himself with just being someone who was drawing a very limited check from social security. What would have happened with his chicken receipe? Who would be buying KFC’s finger licking good chicken?

    Every stage in life is exciting, if we allow ourselves to change. It is my perception and what I do with my perception that counts. Don’t think I am trying to knock those who are satisfied with their lot in life. If they are, then good, but I have a problem with complacency. I have a problem with people saying, “Oh well, this is my lot in life and that was it folks. I am going to live my life out just doing this, or helping others to get what I have missed.”

    I believe in helping others whenever I can, but it doesn’t mean that I have given up on my own large size dreams. My dreams are never small. That oyster is still opening for me and the more I discover the more I want to live and put those dreams into action.

    So you see, you have really stirred me up with this article and I just love articles that make me think.

    Take care of yourself, and it was really a joy sounding off. Keep up the good work.


    • Firstly, thanks for your extensive and thoughtful comments. Let me try and clarify if I may.
      I think there is a certain exuberance that goes with youth that is only for the young. As we get older, we certainly can dream, strive, and grow. However, I think that most people are more nuanced in their expectations. They recognize bumps and know that things may not turn out just because you wish them to. That doesn’t mean things won’t turn out or they will be bad but that they are often different from what you imagined.
      I am glad that you are always striving to grow. I would say the same of myself. I think it is important to always look to grow. I am, and I think many adults are, more realitistic about that growth.
      Thanks again for commenting,

      • Good morning,

        Thank you for clarifying. It made me rest easy. 🙂 I agree, with you. As youths we have an exuberance that is untested and naive. It is as we experience the first disappointments in life that we began to erect walls around ourselves to dampen the pain of rejection, failure or disappointment. But I think this as quite normal. The exhuberance has to be dampen so that we develop the ability to think through things. If we were always on a high, exhuberating at all times, our thinking processes would never develop, and we would get nothing accomplish. The test is to harness this exhuberance so that it is always there, spurring us on. Most people bury i,t and that is sad.

        Have a great day today in school. It is Friday and even though it is raining here, I see the rain as tiny pearl drops falling from the sky. I love the rain.


        • I’m better than a lullaby.
          I think you put it very well – let’s strive and continue to always harness exuberance. To many accomplishments! Here, here.
          As usual, you have an amazing attitude.

  9. Great post. So very true. I remember a conversation with my dad a few short years ago. My husband and I had just moved into our condo and my husband was working a lot of extra hours and wasn’t home much, so my dad had come over to help me install a new door on the second bedroom. While we worked he told me about a party he had been to at a rich co-worker’s house. At the end of his story he told me that, in life, we should take advantage of these invitations and enjoy these friendships and the hospitality because we won’t be able to afford the luxuries they offer us. I remember telling him that I was still young enough to think that I would be wildly successful and rich. He shook his head and smiled but said nothing. I was the young, enthusiastic girl and he was the adult who knew that “lumps would be doled out”. It didn’t take long for me to arrive at his destination.

  10. Yes, ‘stuck-ness’ is a very descriptive word…so what is its opposite? I find I am in a season of life it’s polar opposite. Married young and after 30+ years I am a widow. Reinventing my life and enjoying the journey.

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