carpe diem — usually expressed in English as “seize the day”
Youth is wasted on the young
George Bernard Shaw
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”
Yeah, it’s all trite, straight out of Dead Poet’s Society, but still there is truth here.
I’ve had the experience of meeting a few young people: 1) Clayton (who I can name because he may be a ghost), a young man I met in the campground in Theodore Roosevelt National Park a couple of months ago, 2) a young man I know all to well who believes he is entitled to a free lunch and is living that way, sponging off his adults to live a meaningless life, and, 3) a young man, my nephew who could follow Clayton instead of the other one I know and actually live some life.
Clayton, well, he’s a great kid, responsible, polite, full of life, living life to its fullest. Perhaps I only imagined him because that’s what I think youth should be. And #2, a lazy bum who can’t face life and wants a free lunch and is used to getting it, what is he doing tonight; if he has any money it will be booze and drugs. But #3, that’s the sad case. Like Clayton a responsible and polite and capable kid, but wasting his life.
#3 is willing to do honest labor most people don’t want to do (the classic dirty jobs situation), so unlike #2 he has choices. He has assets, he has time, he is lucid and not under the addiction of substances, but he, like #2, sits on his ass and does nothing. He could live his job for six months and easily get it back and because he’s been diligent he has the funds to do something now. But, no, he’s confined to within 10 miles of where he was born, so tied into a boring local scene. He goes camping, all of 40 miles away, to a boring and uninteresting place, instead of getting in his car and heading out into the unknown.
Some young people are on the fast-track, rushing to establish themselves, get the PhD and the breakthroughs and tenure – fine, that works, they’re not wasting their youth, but they’re also not enjoying it. Then we have the Silicon Valley greedy types, anxious to be a zillionaire by 30 because then somehow everything will be wonderful. Or dedicated political types, already working on their career path. Or a more ordinary sort like me, with a linear trajectory, work hard in early school so you can get in best school, then get best job, and then ???.
If you are really exceptional, then fine, work your ass off while you’re young and build the life that requires all that dedication and hard work. And then hope it pays off and you win at the meritocracy and achieve your goals. But what if you don’t? Have you now wasted your life for a goal you will never achieve or will never satisfy you.
OTOH, be useless, either a total worthless person as the entitled #2 I know or the hard-working, but narrow focused #3. #3 has a chance to do something, experience something, live life, but instead he chooses to take a narrow and unambitious focus.
So it’s sad to see. The exceptional types will win or lose, but at least they tried. The nothings (#2) will someday regret totally wasting their life, with low expectations and low achievements. But the #3 will be the one who really wasted their youth. Sheesh, kid, live a little while you can. There is plenty of time to be an ordinary nobody, don’t settle for that now.