This week marks the convergence of two big moments for me: the 15-year anniversary of my college graduation and the last day of my first year teaching college classes. So I’m spending a lot of time thinking about time.
There are a lot of clichés about time. How it keeps getting faster. How we wish it away only to wish we had it back. How the slowest days seem wasted on anxious youth. The more days I spend in the middle of rooms filled with people younger than me, the more I know these to be true.
But the clichés don’t quite capture what I’m learning these days about what it really means to be human. If it’s possible to have new, old clichés, here are a few I propose:
“Resentment is wasted on the old.”
There’s something sobering about standing in front of a room filled with young people. This first year of teaching has reminded me what it looks like to be all hopped-up on youth and caffeine and possibility. I’m tempted to envy all their options and their room to move. I can’t help but see them as some version of myself, pre-grief, pre-mistakes, pre-disillusionment. I am torn between missing this younger self and fuming at her. And I can feel why so many adults end up resenting younger people. Why youth often symbolize foolishness to us. Not necessarily because we see it in them, but because we see our old selves. We see our regrets and wish we could take their place back at some beginning.
But resenting their youth only wastes my time. And clearly I cannot afford any of that.
“We are not our past but we were. And so are they.”
For all the things I miss about being “the next generation,” coming face-to-face with the actual next-ers reminds me of what I don’t miss. There are a lot of things they don’t know yet. There is a certain amount of chaos and madness to their ways. I see their bravado mixed with insecurity, their idealism mixed with ignorance, and I remember what it felt like to know everything and nothing. I’m embarrassed by things I said, or thought, or did. And then I remember that I wasn’t the only one there. There were adults around who saw this version of me and still managed to also see some potential.
I was the recipient of a whole lot of grace as a young person. This kind of grace really ought to move around more.
“Dying is so ‘this season.’”
There is something powerful and profound about passing things along knowing we won’t last forever. I imagine this is the kind of thing parents figure out pretty early on in their children’s lives, if they’re lucky. There is freedom in giving life away and holding loosely to our own right to live, or to succeed, or to be the hot, young things. The loss of youth, and options, can also mean the discovery of stuff like peace, and wisdom.
If I see losing my life as a gain, I can only get better at it.
Or maybe, in ten years, I will be completely ashamed of everything I’ve written here and I will laugh at all these foolish indiscretions.
Photo (Flickr CC) by becosky…
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