I was driving home with my daughter last night after her archery class, singing along to the radio (like we do). I noticed that what we were singing was yet another pop song idolizing being young. It seems like it’s a fairly universal human experience to long for a past time when you were young and free, life was simple, and you were unconditionally happy.
But I just can’t relate to that.
I mean, I had a pretty good childhood. My family is very loving, and I wasn’t abused or bullied or put through any major trauma. All my needs and many of my desires were met. Still, life didn’t feel easy and free. Navigating my daily experience wasn’t simple. It was painfully hard, and I felt awkward, insecure, and anxious a lot of the time. I was shy and fearful. Probably because of the inner stress I experienced, I was sick a lot of the time with colds, ear infections, and sinusitis.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a sensitive type. An introvert, a HSP, an empath, in a world that rewards extroverts and the self-confident. It took me many years to learn the tools and techniques that enable me to thrive, to find others like me, and a few more years to discover that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with the way I am, and to learn to love and accept myself.
As a creative person, public school really wasn’t the best fit for me, although no one would have thought to suggest it. I earned straight As most of the time, and graduated in the top ten of my class in terms of grades. Even so, a lot of the time I hated going to school, primarily because of the cliques and social interactions that left me feeling excluded. But also, as I learned upon entering college, because my spirit was longing for more freedom.
When I arrived at the University my freshman year, I was amazed by the freedom! I could choose my own classes and my schedule. I could study when I wanted, put in the amount of effort that felt right, stay up late and sleep in, and even better, no one was judging me for it. I could choose my own friends, set my own hours, participate in whatever activities I thought I might enjoy – and quit when I was done. I dove deep into literature and philosophy and explored peace studies and spirituality.
Despite my discoveries in college, I felt a lot of insecurity and angst well into my adulthood. I worried what other people thought, a lot. I had trouble making choices and speaking up about my desires. I had to work through a lot of old beliefs and self-doubt to get to the point I’m at now, where I consider myself a happy person. I was just reading an old journal from my mid-20s, and feeling compassion for how often I felt depressed, uncertain, and frustrated. I had a huge desire to write and create, but I seemed to block myself at every turn.
It’s no one’s fault. It just took me a long time to learn to be comfortable with who I am, and to allow my creativity and spirituality free expression.
So, for many reasons, I don’t wish to return to my youth. Not at all. I’m now in my 40s, and this is the best decade yet. Things keep getting better and better.
Many years ago I had a snippet of a dream that stuck in my head in the form of a sentence from a story. I’ve saved it to perhaps use in a novel at some point, but it feels appropriate for this post. “She had stumbled upon a community of people who were aging backwards.”
I feel like a member of that community, now. I am aging backwards, becoming more free, confident, and vital year by year. How about you? Do you feel that your life is getting better and better? I’d love to hear from others for whom the “oh how I wish I could be young again” song lyrics inspire a shudder and a firm “I don’t freaking think so!”