The Wisdom of Youth

Jul 18th, 2010 12:43:00am

When I was 11, I wrote a story. The plot and writing were quite terrible, really, but back then it was my pride and joy. A plain single-lined notebook was its home, in my best handwriting at the time, and a little picture was carefully drawn at the end of each chapter. I wrote in it whenever I could, excited as I watched the story unfold beneath my own hand, coming to life on the pages. And when I finished it, I was oh-so-proud and couldn’t wait to show it off.

The point of that little snippet? Well, read that last line again: “…I finished it…” It was the first and last time I did.

I have written since, of course. Stories of all kinds but all with one thing in common: they put the “short” in “short stories”, some even being no more than a few paragraphs long. And I have started stories. Stories that I hoped to convert to novels, or at least to something longer than my usual writing. However, I have always surrendered just a few chapters in, and have yet to recapture the enthusiasm I had felt more than 6 years ago…

This, I attribute to growing up.

When we are young, our lives are more filled with wonder. There is more joy in every new discovery, more imagination in every aspect of life. Ordinary concrete floors are rivers of lava. Trees are mountains to climb high and plant one’s flag in victory. Cardboard boxes are trains, cars, castles or forts. And almost everything we do is an adventure. It’s exciting.

When we grow up, however, many of us lose that. The real world reveals itself to us in all its harshness and cold reality, and the exuberant times of our youth fade away as we take on more responsibility, more duties, more activities better suited to our age. Our excitement about life disappears, or does not last for long, as doubts, procrastination and people bringing you back down to earth interfere.

Why is that? Why is it that when we grow, we lose faith in innocence and fall into the trap so many people before us have? Cynicism, negativity, lack of enthusiasm and just sticking to the things you have to do rather than that which makes you happy. Or abandoning the path you had once so gladly taken as faith gives way to doubt, and “reality” calls you back from your dreams.

Let me tell you something. It took me three days just to get this far in this column. Three days ago I started it. Two days ago I started it again. And since then I have written no more than a few lines. In fact, what I have been writing now, which started from the last two lines of the fifth paragraph, is the longest thus far that I have committed myself to it. I started it gladly, excited to be writing again. But, inevitably, it faded away.

Now that I am writing, I can feel a glimmer of what had got me starting this column in the first place, but not as strong as during those first few lines, and apparently not strong enough to get me back to writing it whenever I have to stop. Ironic, considering the topic, but simultaneously helpful in making my point.

Not everyone loses it. That feeling of stimulation and thrill that used to be our driving force. They cherish it and keep it close, because they know that kids’ attitude about life is something to be retained, not something to grow out of. It is wiser than how most teenagers and adults act now. And if it is combined with the enhanced wisdom and knowledge that comes to us as we grow, the possibilities of what we can accomplish are endless, simply because we believe it, and we have the determination and knowledge to achieve it.

I wish I knew where that notebook had gone. I wish I had kept it safer, to remind me of how I felt when writing that story, when finishing it. Of how passionate and enthusiastic I was.

The energy, exuberance, excitement of childhood…

I miss it.

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