Being young: do you remember it? I know, I know: we all remember various things from our childhoods. But do you remember what it felt like to be young?
I do, but the sensation is fleeting. On talk radio the other day, host Glenn Beck (who is my age), was discussing how he was “old, fat, and things aren’t going to get any better from here.” It made me think, because that’s pretty much true for all of us. I’m not obese, but I’m not thin and fit like I was for many years. I look at my kids now, or at pictures from my own younger days, and think, wow.
I’m so skinny. I’m tanned (before we knew that was bad). I don’t have jowls and a double chin. And then I think, did I appreciate that? No. Because we don’t tend to appreciate the things we have until they’re gone, or going.
Turning 20 was a non-event for me. I was probably busy studying for my classes. Turning 30 was getting a little more stressful. Would I ever get married and have kids? Turning 40 was a shock — me, 40? How could this be? 50 was not too great, either. 50 sounds so … old. And ya know what? I’m not thinking that turning 60 or 70 or beyond, if I’m so blessed, is going to feel much cheerier.
I know, I know — we should be happy just to be alive to celebrate each birthday, because not everyone gets that chance. But each milestone also drives home the reality of how quickly time passes (and they older we get, the faster it goes). We realize how our bodies really don’t last forever — something I don’t think I thought about in my youth. I guess I just figured I would live on in my current state of physical health for my allotted years before one day, miraculously, failing to wake up.
During college, an older lady at the church I attended came up to me one Sunday and said, “I just love to see you. You’re just so pretty and YOUNG!” I remember thinking — “okay, that’s weird.” Pretty? I don’t know. But young, I kind of get it. My friends and I are all dealing with various aging issues, and it can feel refreshing, in a nostalgic way, to see the young. There’s just something about youthful bodies, unravaged by age and, sometimes, by our our poor habits. Maybe this is what’s behind people in nursing home loving little kids?
I read a book (I think it’s The 5 People You Meet in Heaven) about a man who was dying. He was walking outside, along a carnival pier. Right after he died, and before he realized that had happened, he experienced his body suddenly feeling really good. He was walking, and then running, not using his cane anymore, and free from pain. He jumped without giving it a thought, and realized just how free he felt. It was a great description of how trapped we can become in our bodies as they age, and of how one day we’ll be free again.
What memories do you have of your youth?