“These are the best years of your life!” your father says to you as you sit across the table from him at dinner. “Enjoy them while they last! Soon you’ll have real problems to worry about, and you’ll wish you were still in school!”
Why is it that young people are told this over and over? Our problems are invalidated, and we are reduced to our age. If not by our parents, then by other older adults. For some reason many of them seem to feel the need to tell us that we are in the best years of our lives and that we shouldn’t worry so much. This might sound like good advice, but if you think about it what really makes these our best years? Yes, our teens and early twenties are filled with many great experiences. We go to our first party, our first date, we graduate high school, go to college, and, yeah, all these moments happen in this little window of time so that we, too, will look back on it all with fondness when we are their age.
But they have time on their side in a way that we don’t. They look back to the past through rose colored glasses, they’ve had time to romanticize their youth. They are at the point where they remember things almost how they want to remember them. They laugh at their younger selves and the emotions they felt then- everything they felt from the shame of a bad haircut, the pain of losing the first boyfriend that was supposed to be the one, or the fear of what to do with their lives. They laugh because they already know how things turned out. Why were they so worried? They think to themselves. They should have known things would turn out okay. Then they turn to us, all these different pains and emotions so fresh on our minds or waiting around the corner ready and tell us that these years our the best years of our lives. But are they?
Sadly, maybe for some. The star quarterback who peaked in high school then started at a boring dead end job that he didn't leave till he retired. The cheerleader who got pregnant and dropped out of school and never ended up going back to pursue her dream job. The slacker who spent his years partying instead of studying and just barely graduated. Sadly, maybe these are the best years of these people's lives. More than likely these were the people in high school that always had friends to hang out with, new clothes to wear, a car to drive. The people who tell you that high school was their best years weren't the quiet ones sitting by themselves at lunch, or the nerds who were constantly bullied. They weren't the boy whose parents couldn’t afford to take care of him properly or girl who was helping to raise her siblings. Their best years were other peoples worst, a time where they were almost an adult and were stuck in a bad situation, not yet able to fully take care of themselves.
So don’t let anyone tell you these are your best years just because they were theirs. High school was one of the hardest things anyone will ever have to go through in their lives. You are packed into a building for about eight hours a day five days a week, stuck with people who are, just like you, growing and maturing and learning and you are told that you must have great grades and a great resume and so you can get great scholarships and get a great job to have a great life. That is a lot of pressure to put on one person, let alone a child. How can these possibly be the best years of our lives? If they are what are we working so hard toward? Why do we bother? Wouldn't it be better for us to spend our supposed “best years” learning who we are and creating our identities instead of working toward a supposedly worst future?
So no, I don’t know about you but these can’t be the best years of my life. I’m having a great time in college. I’m making new friends everyday, learning new things, working towards my goals, and yes it's exciting and fun and it's all new new new and i'll never be this young again but that doesn't mean i'll never be this happy again or as carefree again or have as many friends again.
Because as exciting as this all is i'm always stressed and nervous and have feelings of being inadequate and unprepared. Just like everyone my age i’m still going through the awkward struggle of growing up and learning about myself and how the world works and you know what? I’m terrified. I’m absolutely terrified. I don’t have the wisdom that comes with age, and the security that comes with being in a marriage and the happiness that comes with being settled into my dream job. I don’t know what's gonna happen as I get older, but I know it's got to be exciting because there’s a wide world out there and I still have a whole lotta living to do.