From Ask Dr. NerdLove: Why being a "wild youth" is unnecessary

Have you ever wondered if you're squandering your youth?  Or, if you're like me, have you ever tried to articulate why you think the notion of youth being a time for "wildness", lest it be squandered, is wrong but had trouble doing so?  Lucky Ask Dr. NerdLove has taken care off t!

I have been trying to sort this out ever since I was eighteen and working for one month at Danier Leather.  I would spend the day awkwardly hanging out while my coworkers talked about the drugs they were taking and random sex they were having and how everyone "has to try these things" while they are young otherwise they'll go crazy later.  I felt really uncomfortable because a) those things weren't my jam and so I couldn't participate in any conversations and b) I completely disagreed that the experience of being "wild" was a necessary part of youth, but could never articulate why.

Here is why.  In response to a question from a young man who is in a relationship with a woman he loves and is completely happy with, but is worried that they met and fell in love too young and that they'll regret not having more experience and wind up cheating or something, Dr. NerdLove says:
Why, exactly, are you afraid of “wasting” your 20s? What, exactly, is it that you can do in your 20s that you can’t do in your 30s? In your 40s? In your 50s? To quote a wise man: 30 is the new 20. In fact, as many people will tell you: your 30s are frequently better than your 20s. You have more money and more experience, and a better idea of who you are. Our society worships youth. So much of our pop-culture is about people in their teens and 20s doing amazing things, so we get these ideas that we can only be amazing in our teens and 20s. It becomes part of this cultural narrative that there’s only one way to adult: that your 20s are for being flighty and experimental and your 30s onward are for being boring, settled-in adults.

You can have adventures in your 30s. You can have crazy sex with strangers in your 40s. You don’t have a ticking clock telling you that you have only so many years before you’re required to settle down and give up on excitement and adventure. Spending time worrying about what might happen in your future means that you’re not enjoying the time you have now.
You don’t actually have a problem—in fact, you’re both pretty happy—but you wonder. What if you’re making a mistake? What if you’re squandering your youth? What if, what if, what if?

Fun thing about what-ifs: you can basically what-if any situation. What if you wake up in your 50s and wish you’d done more fucking around? What if you take a break from your girlfriend, date around and realize that no, she really was the person you should be with, but now she won’t get back together with you? What if you break up with your girlfriend and then a meteor smashes into your apartment, killing you instantly? Sure, it’s implausible… but what if??

What If is the language of paralysis. It’s the language of your jerkbrain poking you in your anxieties, hitting you with that little nagging voice that asks: “what if you’re missing out?”
This is, obviously, about relationships, but if you ask me, it applies to everything.  It's George Costansa telling us that we can't actually just enjoy our lives, that it's always going to get ruined.

Well, sure.  At some point we will probably regret a choice that we made.  At some point, the awesome thing we have might go away or we will feel a bit stir crazy and need to make a change in our life.  So that means we don't enjoy it while we have it?  That we throw something away just in case later we get a little bit of cabin fever?  You can tire yourself out by running around like crazy so that spending a day in the cabin feels like a well-earned rest, but you can't pack all your cabin-time into one half of your life and assume that if you spend all your time in the lake now you'll never want to go down there again.  Amiright?  Did I overuse that metaphor enough?

Anyways, I could keep going, but instead I'll just say "that's what he said" and refer back to Dr. NerdLove's post.

Okay, one more thing: I do think there are some people who have a greater "go and adventure" pull than others.  These are the people that need a higher level of freedom in their lives.  They don't do well with 9 to 5s and see mortgages as a tether (whereas I see it as a freedom - if I travel I can rent out my home and keep making money?  Sweet!).  These people will probably be war correspondents or bump around the world as bohemians, picking apples in groves when they need to before jaunting off to Burning Man: Australian Outback.  This is wonderful for them, and is in no way confined to youth!  It's not something to "get out of their system", it's just who they are.

So as Amy Poehler says, "good for you, not for me", and let's not generalize this to something everyone should be doing before they turn 30.  You can still go pick apples and go to Burning Man when you're 35.  It's okay.

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