Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On mourning the confidence of youth. By Elsbeth Cather Currier

It is very fitting that this piece will appear on KD’s blog.  We grew up together and she someone who I feel so fortunate to be able call one of my oldest and best childhood friends.
Friends since many memories!
On mourning the confidence of youth.
Anyone close to me recently knows that turning thirty last year was a serious struggle.  It just came up so quickly.  Obviously aging is unavoidable but these milestone birthdays hit you hard with the reality that it is actually happening to you.  For some reason, I just thought it wouldn’t actually happen.  A large portion of this is due to the fact that I am not at all where I expected to be in life at this age so turning thirty literally didn’t make sense.  When you’re young and naïve, you assume by thirty, you will have everything together.  I’m sure most people beyond this age will confirm that this is rarely the case.  However most people for whom this milestone age is still far off, I’m sure they have the same beliefs I did.  Another thing that didn’t help the situation is that I spend a good amount of time each week with teenagers.  I am so blessed to have them in my life and can’t imagine what my life would without them.  However, when you talk to a student whose birthday is close to yours and ask, “How old are you turning?” And her response is, “15…so half of you.” It will make you feel like the most ancient human being to walk the planet.  
My first time volunteering with the Element high school youth group at Discovery Church was daunting to say the least.  I didn’t imagine I would care so much about what a group of teenagers who I had never even met thought of me.  Since it had been quite some time since I could call myself a teenager, I had taken recent portrayals of teens in the media as reality and was terrified that they would think I was so old and so not cool.  It didn’t take long for me to remember what being a teenager was like and that they were far more concerned with their peers and the daily drama that comes along with being a teenager than with whether I was “cool” or not.  I had forgotten the beautiful awkwardness of youth and was quickly reminded of that after a short time working with them.  As I got to know them better, I would see parts of my younger self in them which made helped connect us but at the same time it made me sad that those qualities had been lost over the years.  
My kids are honestly the most incredible people I have ever met.  They do often remind me of myself at their age but I never did and will never be able to hold a candle to them.  They have so much passion for everything in their lives.  I forgot about the fierce loyalty of teenage friendship.  I forgot about the excitement of realizing the person you want to be and having no fear about moving toward becoming that person.  I forgot what it is like to have your whole life in front of you. I forgot about big dreams.  But what I forgot about most and what seems most lost to me is the bravery of youth.  I am amazed daily by these teenagers; the lives they lead and the desires of their hearts.  When you are just beginning on life’s journey, you really have nothing to lose.  My kids dream the big dreams.  They haven’t felt the sting of one’s dreams being dashed.  They haven’t felt the pain of it “being too late” for anything.  They don’t compare their station in life with their peers. I wished that I had been like them.
Then one day, I realized it.  I had been just like them.  All theses quality’s that I admire so much in them, I had had.  I had big dreams. I had no fear.  I had confidence.  These students are far more confident in themselves and what they can bring to the world than I am now at 30 years old.  I never expected to look back on my teen years and wish for the confidence I had then.  We’re told at that age that things will be better when you’re older.  We’re told that people will be nicer.  We’re told that you’ll have control of your own life and destiny.  In most cases, these are complete lies.  And realizing that makes for a difficult jolt into adult reality.  
Upon the discovery of the loss of my youth and everything that went with it, I honestly went through a time of true mourning.  As much as I wish to go back to the person I was at 17, I know that I cannot.  I look back fondly at that girl but I have to let her go.  This is very difficult and honestly sad.  However, I know that finding the pieces of that girl that are still alive in me and pairing them with the experiences of my twenties  will yield a person capable of being brave again,  a person capable of hoping again,  a person capable of dreaming big again.  I feel so fortunate to call my kids, my friends.  They have inspired me to revive the parts of my younger self that gave me confidence and hope.    So to everyone, in this same stage, do not despair.   Take the time to mourn the loss of the confidence of youth but then search inside yourself and find the pieces that have survived the difficult realities of young adulthood.  Revive them and be brave again!  Lastly, I highly recommend spending time with teenagers in your community.  They will teach you so much more then could ever even try to teach them while also keeping you young.  I don’t even have words to express the impact my kids have had on my life and how much I love them.

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