The days of our youth are the days of our glory.
I’ve always thought that with the advent of mature and responsible adulthood the first loss is the freshness of youth. When I take a look back to our youthful days, I can’t help becoming somewhat wistful. Those were carefree and reckless days and we didn’t care a damn about what other people thought.
We reveled in following our instincts. True there were occasions when we made mistakes and had to pay heavily for them. But boy, oh boy! What wouldn’t I give to make those mistakes again? Our souls were, after all, pure and we were never so selfish and intent on personal aggrandizement. Your mate was a guy for whom you gave your shirt off your back, without feeling like getting a pat on your back for the act. You would rush forward to help someone in danger without thinking twice. And you did not hesitate to enjoy yourself without thinking about the consequences.
One other thing you lose with adulthood is your ability to dream. However, in our country, funnily enough, the term adolescent is considered pejorative. Isn’t there something exceptionally uplifting about the thoughts and dreams between the sprouting of puberty and the call of adulthood? In our youth, we all combine humanitarian feelings with our lust for travel and adventure. We want to be a combination of Sylvester Stallone, Tarzan, and James Bond. We want to be the strongest, most intelligent, charming, rich, all at the same time.
The dreams of our youth are often smothered under the great weight of responsibility, right under the time of our first job, but they never die.
They seethe beneath the surface of maturity and when they emerge years later we think seriously about chucking it all and going on an adventurous journey.
However, that weight of responsibility has the last say on more occasions than not.
We are too much concerned about the fact that our friends or relatives might get pissed off. This desire to be youthful is given terms like a mid-life crisis, psychological aberrations, second childhood, and other such uncharitable sobriquets.
Yes, I too am often asked to grow up? To be frank when people ask one to grow up what they actually mean is: “Kindly let your dreams die, so I don’t have to deal with my own.”
I really appreciate those people who can keep their youthfulness and hence their ability to dream intact. My younger self refuses to grow up and wants to break free yet my saner self argues and tells it “Look I hold a responsible job. I can’t change the world you see. I do what I can but I do it with a lower voice.” The younger self cries: “Sell out.” So internal agony is the result as one has to put on different masks to face the different situations.
I firmly believe that certain adolescent fantasies are written indelibly in our hearts. For all the emotional trauma it brings about adolescence is that time of our life when we are the most ambitious, most open to any experience, the most idealistic we will ever be. I suppose the full-scale, reckless idealism is a way of testing ourselves against the hard and often harsh realities of life. Lose those ideals completely. So we got to appreciate people who sometimes indulge in dumb and dangerous things-trekking or rock climbing or hunting, for instance. Or perhaps challenge established authority.
I do try to find ways of indulging my youthful spirit. A couple of years ago I had that wonderful experience of rock climbing in Darjeeling. I and my group of pals go trekking at the hill tracts region of Sylhet.
One of my dreams has been to go bungy jumping or paragliding. Just as I can save enough money I may go to Thailand or Borneo or Sumatra to turn that fantasy into reality. Life, after all, is all about taking risks, isn’t it?
A dash of youthful irresponsibility is necessary to make life worthwhile. Too much reverence won’t do anybody any good. It is the non-conformists who make an impact. And the heart of every iconoclast is a youthful one. At one point in their lives, they refused to grow up. And in making that decision they have done the world a lot of good.
In Papua New Guinea there is a special ritual for young men. They leap off a tower with a vine tied to their legs.
In most cases, the vines don’t quite reach the ground. Anthropologists call it a rite of passage: a physical questioning of the realities of life. Perhaps it may even be a questioning of values.
Childish, do I hear someone say. Well, may be? But worth appreciating all the time.