By Buddy Early, March 2019 Issue.
There are certain things that become part of your routine when you get older. You take an Ibuprofen that’s on the counter, even if it’s for no reason other than there probably is a reason you need to take it. You start buying cranberry juice at the grocery store because, hey, cranberry juice is good for you. And you say things like, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I’ve uttered that phrase numerous times in the last few years — either to an actual young person or just under my breath.
Of course, this is a concept that is only understood by people who are no longer considered youthful. It’s pointless to try to convince young people that “youth is wasted on the young;” If they believed and understood this fact about youth … well, it most likely wouldn’t be wasted.
I certainly know about this. I never fully understood or appreciated those years when I had the world at my fingertips, when I had so many choices, when I could function on five hours of sleep and yet a good portion of those other 19 hours were spent wasted — oh, hey, there’s that word!
Often, I find myself around young people with an opportunity to share my life wisdom. (I like to think this is because I am young at heart and am able to connect with them; however, it’s really because due to poor life choices I am surrounded at work by people 20 years my junior.) The first thing I tell people in their twenties is to have more sex and do more drugs. I mean, if they want to. I know I wish I had.
It’s too late for me now. Nowadays, if someone slipped me half an ecstasy pill, I’d have to be wheeled out of Sprouts or Starbucks (or any other place that qualifies as a “hangout”) by some hunky firemen. Incidentally, I’ll never be able to look any of them in the eye again because passing out automatically leads to discharge of bodily fluids — from simple drooling all the way to these panties will have to be destroyed. I mean, one of those firemen could be my soulmate … but we could never have that episode be our meet-cute.
And as far as sex goes? Well, let’s just say that when presented with the opportunity I immediately start counting how much sleep I need vs. how much sleep I would get. Sleep usually wins.
*Disclaimer: I am aware that plenty of gay men my age and older have active sex lives and still party, so save your letters of outrage.
Lest you think I have been a killjoy all my life, I should point out that I was quite the fun machine in my youth. Case in point: for an entire year in college I was affectionally known as “The Guy Who Brought Beer to Everything.” And I dare you to find better evidence of how fun I was back in the day more than the end-of-semester party where I almost died of alcohol poisoning. Good times, indeed.
Having fun was never my problem. It was the other side of the “Youth is wasted on the young” coin. Which brings me to the second thing I tell people who are in their twenties. The second thing I tell them is to do things that are fulfilling and/or set you up for a terrific future. And don’t do what doesn’t.
There’s no better time than in your twenties to say “Fuck this job. I hate it.” It’s the age when you drop out of law school because you want to dabble full-time in water colors. It’s the age you volunteer for all the things that are meaningful to you because you still have energy at the end of a 40-hour work week. It’s the age to throw caution to the wind by writing everything in comic sans or serving red wine with fish to a table of judgey gays. (Proceed with caution when it comes to those last two examples.)
I didn’t seize opportunities. I didn’t take risks and I didn’t take control of my own life. Life was something that happened around me and I was just there for the ride, albeit a fun ride. This is not to say I can’t still do some of those things I advise young people to do. But the courage required is greater, not to mention the repercussions, for someone my age or older. (This is especially true for the aforementioned red wine faux pas.)
The reason youth ends up being wasted on the young is because too many of us do not take advantage of those years. We think there’s all the time in the world, but it passes us by. Each bit of passing time is a missed opportunity. And we never get that time back.
So, quit that job; have that sex; and serve whatever the hell wine you desire. And if you drop out of law school tell your parents I said it was okay.