This is What Being Young Means

Summer

when we're young, it's the ability to

Feelings are more important than words.

That time you sat in the passenger seat with the car turned off, the smell of the fabric heating up, his fingers tapping the window to a rhythm he wasn’t sure of. That time when the grass poked and streaked your legs with red, your feet felt grainy, and your friends knew it, too. When you wondered why your eyes didn’t quite look like hers and your lips felt so insignificant next to hers, so you wanted to tell yourself it didn’t matter. When you fell through the inescapable gap between celebrating life’s inevitability and the importance of doing what you’re supposed to do to survive, despite the blandness. There are so many feelings – ones we’ve created in our own world and ones we’ve unknowingly or regrettably shared with everyone else. And, when we’re young, it’s the ability to feel that threads us together.

I think you’re allowed to be wrong about so many things. This is the best time to be wrong. Because not only do you have a somewhat valid excuse, but you’ve got all that time to figure out the right. We’re so lucky! And even though some of us, unfortunately and unknowingly, may not get to live to experience all that supposed time – we’ve at least left the mark of our youth behind. The wrongs, the rights, the yet-to-be-figured outs. That’s a part of adolescence; you’re allowed to mess around with the puzzle and procrastinate on it, and if it’s cut too short, it’s okay. You were so young, it was too early. Your wrongs cannot be begrudged.

But, this is the other part, the part that kind of sucks: You’ve got to figure out when it’s time to grow up. You need a running start, too. When you’re young, you have to be aware of the future. Hell, you have to practically be able to predict the future, because in the process of learning the rights, you have to understand and absorb the whys. Why can’t I burn bridges? Why do I have to spend some days by myself? Why must I learn how to be tolerant? Why should I remind myself to call my mother? The whys are the most important part of the rights. They’re the stepping stone into the greater understanding of adulthood. You have to be ready for it. Some people are thrown into adulthood sooner than others, and they’re the one’s living in the world of inexcusable wrongs, where the phrase You should have known better is rarely sputtered since, well, hell yeah they should’ve known better. There’s no use in pointing it out.

Youth ends, and we can trick ourselves into thinking that it doesn’t, and that we are in control of our youth (an adult whose mistakes can be compared with a teenager’s is never highly regarded), but we aren’t. The only thing that we carry into adulthood from our youth is the scars that it left on us and in us. What our adolescence voluntarily and involuntarily forced us into becoming. The wrongs that brought on the rights and the rights that taught us the whys. Those fragments remind us of the fragility and perishability of our past selves – the parts we can never, ever return to or become again. That’s what makes youth seem so pure, so attractive, so savored.

Being young means feeling the now and anticipating the future. When we are young we try to trick ourselves into feeling older and when we are old we try to trick ourselves into feeling younger. The truth is, we will never be able to know or feel the future and we will only ever be able to crave, scratch, or push away the past. Although we seem so confused right now (and some of us so sure), this is the best time to feel and this is the best time to know, because the best part of being young is that you don’t really have to look back. You only have to look forward.


Photography by Peyton Cook.

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