The Urgency of Being Young

I still remember what it feels like to believe that meeting one of your friends for play time on a Thursday afternoon is the most important thing in the world. Do you? “Come on mom, I need you to drive me! Please, please, please!! It’s important!!”

The older we get, the more we believe that what we once thought was a big deal was actually irrelevant. But was it? Letting go of ideas, places, and people is a natural part of human growth. It would happen whether we age or not.

Today we care about board games, tomorrow we stop and pick up mountain-biking. The trap of age is that we automatically assume our current choices are wiser than our past ones. “Solving the crossword is a much better habit than playing video games.” But perhaps it’s just a better fit for us at that stage of life. No judgement needed.

Objectively, sure, putting food on the table, saving enough to retire, and having a stable marriage seem like bigger, easier-to-justify problems — but if you don’t know any of them, is pushing for a toy so you can play with your friends still meaningless? I don’t think so. That play time might lead to lifelong bonds, and nothing in life happens without context.

You can’t understand what a nine-year-old cares about without seeing the world through a nine-year-old’s eyes. Those eyes don’t see the hard work that goes into every lunch, every new t-shirt, every fight you don’t have in front of them, but that doesn’t make those efforts unimportant. Just like your struggle to provide those things doesn’t disqualify your kid’s desire to play, explore, and connect.

As children, we can’t see the grand scheme of things — but the scheme we see sure is the grandest we can imagine. I remember when my definition of bliss was an afternoon of playing trading card games with other kids. Every time my mom dropped me off at one of the stores where leagues were held, my week was made. I still have those memories more than 20 years later. I’m still friends with some of the people who were there. Not a stupid thing to care about after all, it seems.

When we are young, we feel so much urgency towards endeavors that, 20 years later, we can barely understand. Ironically, it is a lack of this very urgency that can make our lives feel gray and empty when the burdens of adulthood kick in. We no longer have the courage to care about something just because. Everything needs to “make sense.” But when we forget what’s like to get deeply invested into seeing a movie on the first day or rushing to be on time for a causal afternoon basketball session, we risk alienating the people we love and want to support, even raise.

Go on. Take one for the feels. Spend time at the record shop, have a Simpsons marathon with friends, or order some trading cards online. Prioritizing what feels like a childish goal won’t just add color to your life, it’ll also remind you of the urgency of being young — and whether you’re still young or not, that’s an important thing to remember — even if your mom no longer needs to drive you to the comic book store.