Let me preface this by saying that I don’t want to quit my day job and become a street accordion player. I don’t want to blow all my money traveling to an ashram in India so I can “find myself” either, I know where I am. I don’t want to take a figure drawing class because I don’t need a class to tell me I can’t draw and I don’t want to stay up all night scouring the city for a piece of red cloth. I don’t want to get drunk with love in a modern-day opium den with a boy who looks like Lord Byron, at least not anymore.
I just want to tell you that I want to stay young.
Being young has nothing to do with biological age. As a society we have this weird view about age. First you’re young and innocent, then you’re young and less innocent, then you’re young bordering on old, and then from there on it’s all downhill to the grave. Somewhere along the line you are supposed to grow up and stop being young, so to speak. You are supposed to know better and stop making stupid mistakes. You are supposed to be able to plan things. You are supposed to know how to operate a rice cooker. Your maternal or paternal instinct is supposed to kick in or else you will become an ostracized leper, or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe.
Well. I only hope that one day I will stop making stupid mistakes in favor of educated ones, and be able to plan things, and operate a rice cooker. I always burn rice when I boil it so I hope I figure out that last one pretty soon. But even when I have all those things down, I still want to stay young.
As twenty-somethings, whenever we say we feel “old” it’s because we’re tired. It’s because we’ve gone drastically from living life one moment to the next to actually having to plan things, consider things. We suddenly have to be responsible when we don’t want to be, or we’re not ready to be, or it’s just so overwhelming and we have no clue where it came from and it’s crushing. And sometimes, as a result, we fall prey to that been there-done that mentality, the feeling behind our desire to stay in on Friday instead of going to that party that promises to be killer. We’ve been to killer parties before. We know what it feels like to do eleven shots of Sambuca and drain our savings and wake up next to crumpled Taco Bell wrappers and a snoring Hungarian who also doesn’t have the answers. It gets old.
But here’s the thing: being young isn’t all about partying all the time and being completely off your rocker (though that is a large part of it, but). Being young, I’m pretty sure, is about being curious. It’s about being excited about things, about wanting to learn, about letting yourself be changed. About acknowledging the fact that there’s so much out there to do and experience that we have no business being “world weary” yet, no matter how vast our post-grad disillusionment. It’s about not letting yourself get bored, get hopelessly crushed under the been there-done that mentality that makes so many of us feel decrepit at 25.
I don’t want that — I don’t want to ever get bored. I want to get excited about “useless” things forever, the same way I used to get excited about things like queer themes in Gothic feminist literature as an undergrad. Excitement is what keeps us alive versus existing, yet so many of us are ready to quietly sit down way before they’ve even stood. Why?
To know yourself, know what you’re capable of; that’s the wisdom that comes with age. There’s no point in taking figure drawing when you know you straight up can’t draw and don’t really care if you learn or not. But there’s also no point in limiting yourself when you can let yourself be surprised. That’s the subversive knowledge of youth.
And that’s why I want to stay young. Because I don’t “know everything” and don’t even want to; we’ve all met people who “know everything” and they are about as interesting as stale bagels and similarly textured.