“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it is to be young”–Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
This quote has been going through my head a lot of late. I am by no means an old man–though I am certainly one who identifies a fair bit with the “old soul” community–but I am living in a university town, and it IS back to school season. This is only the second fall I have not been going back to school, and events of the past year have made this year’s back-to-school season more emotionally potent for me.
Last year at this time I was on personal leave from Indigo. I was convinced that I would get things sorted and find a career that I would stick with for some time. I also was convinced that many things would continue as they had always been in communities I was a part of. I did not realize that much of what I counted on in life would be turned on its head, that there would be loss, betrayal, pain, and heartbreak throughout the next year of my life–and that I would be leaving traditional employment behind and trying to get into the self-employed field as the best option to accommodate my mental health struggles.
This fall, I now have a lot more ambiguity. I’m working to manage my disabilities and get a business launched–but I do not have confidence in my ability to succeed to the heights that I would like, and I’m asking myself how to balance my values, the expectations of society, and the practical necessities of living. All in all, I have a lot of uncertainty.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that I feel a longing for the purpose school provided–after all, though I certainly didn’t like the standardised testing, the rushes and pressures, I did enjoy the wealth of opportunities to connect socially, and the intellectual stimulation of learning new things, and being exposed to different ways of viewing the world.
Unfortunately, that longing easily becomes resentment when the hordes of university students return to the city. I find myself getting frustrated and bitter at the crowds, and the drunken behaviour, and the packs of people everywhere–and when I do, I catch myself doing it and I remind myself of a few things.
I remind myself that that drunkenness and crowdedness goes hand-in-hand with a good and joyful time. That these people are young, and having new experiences, and spreading their wings–that the bad decisions they make now will spare them from making them later in life, and that everybody needs to grow and learn the hard way. I remind myself that my resentment comes from a longing for those days of purpose, and that even if I didn’t make some of the mistakes these young people are making, I made a helluva lot of my own ones. And I remind myself that I am growing and learning, making new mistakes, having my own new experiences, and probably engendering resentment in a number of people older than me.
So I strive to remind myself what it was to be younger, even if only by a few years, and I make the choice to hold onto hope, to forgive the excesses and exuberance that come with inexperience, and to fight to my last breath to avoid falling into the trap of bitter cynicism.
So party on, Guelph! And never forget what it’s like to be younger.