One of the defining traits of youth is that the amount of life we have yet to live is much greater than the one we have lived so far. Being young is being a subject in the kingdom of the -ing, experiencing, experimenting, maturing; not in the kingdom of the -ed, experienced, experimented, matured. Being young means that your life is not mostly about what has happened or what you have done so far (because, well, it hasn’t been so much yet, actually) but the possibilities, the horizon ahead of you, what is yet to come and happen, what you will turn into. We, poor or blessed young people, spend a great deal of our time dreaming and thinking about, and doing things for, our future. Projecting. Planning. Working step by step in order to. Building a path. Building ourselves.
Yes, it sounds obvious, and it can and should be amazing, given the fascinating freedom and possibilities that it entails – to be, to do, to try, to make mistakes, realizations and choices, while everything is open. But it can (and I dare say should be, to a healthily limited extent) anguishing, given the insecurities and uncertainties that are also a part of the process… About oneself, about making the right decisions at the right time, about the context, about factors that don’t always depend on you but to a certain extent determine what will be. So…. how best to do deal with it, while enjoying it, exploring and discovering yourself and the world, and not getting entirely anxious, obsessed or downright crazy?
Well, the first evident way is to turn attentively and humbly to the views and advice of those who usually know and love us best and have acquired the passport of the land of the -ed, or accumulated observations and experiences: our parents. (And in their absence or inadequacy, our closer “fully adult” relatives, our teachers and professors, our guides, whichever tie or relationship they have with us.) Right? Spectacularly wrong. Or at least, not entirely or necessarily true. Why?
For two very good but not always obvious reasons. Firstly, because it is about our future, not theirs. No, by this, I don’t mean it is not their problem and they can’t give you a hand, but that it concerns mainly and in a way only us. It is us who will wake up and every day lives, enjoy or bear our future professions, city, partner. And as much as they cheer for us and are close supporting and helping, they are and will not be in our skin. A skin that will actually change so much along with the years, that the views and options we have in moments of choosing might not even be appropriate after a decade. How can we ask them to carry the burden of being responsible or the main assistants in the design and devise of our future, then?
Secondly, because the world of today changes in a tantalizing speed, and the more time passes and transformations happen and become real, the more our beloved older ones belong to the reign of the past, in their lifetime and the world’s. A mere two hundred years ago, things didn’t change so fast, and chances were that somebody’s life would greatly resemble that of their parents and their kids’ lives would greatly resemble theirs. Pieces of advice, in this case, were of immense value. They were valid because the reality in which people lived didn’t vary so much. But now, a great part of the professions, professional structures, and technologies of today didn’t exist thirty years ago, and those of the future haven’t been invented yet. How on Earth can we expect our older loved ones to give us sound advice about a world they don’t perfectly know? Especially taking into account the fact that, inevitably, the less they have to live ahead of them, the less they need to get involved with or updated about prospects of the future, the more what they know, they did, they think about is about…the past. A time that is dying.
Yes, I know it is not super comforting to read that – and do rejoice if it is not your case, which may well be, since parents, as people in general, differ so much and exist in all sizes, shapes, and sorts. But realizing this can help you to make peace with the limits of your loved older ones, if it is the case, in helping you at difficult times of choices and transitions. This can help you accept, without any resentment, that those who taught you to walk, to talk, to read, to live with others, to get dressed and brush your teeth, may no longer be able to show you the way or give you enough directions to find it.
Maybe now you’re thinking… Well, then if I can’t exactly count on my parents to guide me to my future – because it is mine and it is future, both unknown territory to them… Then, the smarter thing to do would be to get out there and get as much information as I can from contemporary sources and from young people who have just gone through this path I think of taking… Analysis and opinions from people of my age and era, who are similarly attached to the future as I am but who have a little bit more experience than I do… and there I will find my answers.
Again, no. Or not really. For people are different, and what suits you might not suit me – even though it is indeed a good idea, or dare I say essential, not to be guided by imagination only and also to read or get first-hand accounts about how what you think of doing actually is/works. But this is it. A research of this sort should give you elements to make your informed decision, not your answers. I blame our education system for not teaching us this… But you won’t find your answers anywhere, like in a hide-and-seek game where it is a question of detecting the right place, or like we are taught to do at school, reading certain books and listening to certain classes and in their content finding some answers for some specific questions. You will build your decisions. In yourself, with yourself, in situations and based on information, impressions, and people that you meet along the way, that makes you feel or think in a certain manner, that lead you to certain criteria, reflections, and realizations.
Building our path, present, and future, while we are young… is a beautiful blessing and challenge. A unique recipe for each one of us, according to our taste, personality and circumstance, but which in my view necessarily involves mixing different ingredients… the experience and wisdom of those from the -ed, the vision, and closeness of others in our -ing realm, the quest to be aware of and prepared in a way meet the needs and structures of reality and, mainly, the element that cannot be absent, the search to be honest, frank with ourselves, accepting the maybe long and full of stones, uncertainties and steps back and forth path to our decisions and future. To be, to do, to live what we can and wish to be, to do, to live.