I usually make my posts early in the afternoon- also known as right after I wake up. But after scrolling through dozens of responses to today’s prompt, Youth, I found myself stepping away from the keyboard over and over again.
There wasn’t any lack of sweeping generalizations. Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York, once said something to the effect that drawing a circle around 1.6 billion unique individuals and pointing at them as the problem, was dangerous. There are far more youth in the world than Muslims, but the same idea holds. Youth, if defined as young people, represents the most diverse group of people you can possibly have.
I smiled today when I read about people who refused to let their physical aging determine how young they felt on the inside. I felt slightly less warm and fuzzy when I read about someone accusing all youth of some stubbornness that compels them to smoke when they know the consequences of lung cancer.
Everyone can give advice to their younger selves, no matter how old we are currently. Perhaps that’s why we are so quick to judge youth, because we assume our mistakes were a product of our own young age and inexperience.
But admitting one’s own past mistakes does not give a free license for imposing those traits on all young people.
Smoking, laziness, crime, and pretentiousness are not things exclusive to youth, but too often we’re the scapegoats.
Youth don’t get enough credit. We are inexperienced, but that does not mean we aren’t struggling to learn every day. We’re trying to figure out who we are as individuals. Don’t even get me started on college applications.
Being young means yes, we approach things with optimism. We think we can take on the world because it hasn’t beat us down yet and our hearts are not full of cynicism. So who is anyone to tell us that we can’t achieve our dreams before we’ve even tried. Being young, we’re vulnerable to an immeasurable amount of self-doubt and self-hate. A widely disparaging view of youth doesn’t help. We will grow up and carry that self-hate with us into adulthood.
Being young is a confusing, exciting, tumultuous and ultimately beautiful thing. Some of the most ambitious, respectful, and genuine people I know are young, and I know that they will grow up to achieve great things.