Youth Is Wasted on 35-Year-Olds August 28th, 2012
I was carrying two balls of dough and a salad out of our neighborhood pizza joint. The boys and I were planning to have a Friday night pizza party at home so that IEP could sprinkle his own cheese, which is a favorite culinary activity of his. As I walked out an older couple walked in. He had grey hair and sunken eyes and walked with a cane. Her whole body drooped to one side, giving the distinct impression of a mild stroke. She wore the kind of sunglasses that are highly protective and not at all fashionable. They walked slowly, but with slight smiles on their faces. It’s hard to walk into our pizza place and not smile – it is filled with happy people and delicious food. Nevertheless, they made me worry.
I walked to my car at a brisk pace, wanting to get home to the boys. As I did I thought about that old saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I’ve thought about it often since I had kids. Children, of course, don’t realize how easy they have it. They don’t understand how nice it is not to have to pay bills, or get cars serviced, or remember to give the dogs their flea medications each month. They go through each day blissfully unaware of how unburdened they are. I wondered if – even amongst the bridling responsibilities of adulthood – the same weren’t still true of me.
When you get right down to it, I too am blissfully unaware of how unburdened I am. I can drive in heavy traffic without worrying about the acuity of my reflexes. I can carry groceries in from the car. I can open pickle jars with my non-arthritic hands. I don’t have to worry about keeping medications straight or remembering to take them. And I have the energy to work a full-time job and keep up with my two young sons.
And I almost never stop to appreciate those facts.
“Youth is wasted on the young” is a relative statement. To me kids, teenagers, and college students have no idea how easy they have it. To someone whose knees are giving out or who can’t type anymore, I have no idea how good I have it. The only difference between me and my kids is that I’ve lived long enough to have some perspective. I know that wide, grassy path of the college years narrows and steepens with adulthood. And I know that this path will continue to climb as I age.
I suppose it could be depressing to think that life only gets harder, but I know that isn’t entirely true. Perhaps I’ll never be as young and energetic as I am today. But nor will I have to cut food into tiny pieces or travel with two car seats and a Pack N Play. Some things will get harder, but others will get easier. In the meantime, though, I want to do a better job of appreciating where I am today.
My 35th birthday is on the horizon and I’m not especially excited about it. It sounds old to me. It sounds so “mom jeans and sensible shoes.” And that’s not at all how I see myself. I see myself as young, and while I may not be compared to a college sophomore, in the grand scheme of things I still am. I should enjoy it. I’m sure there are lots of people who would love to have the strength and energy of a 35-year-old. I don’t want my own youth to be wasted on me.