To be young is to tread the line between sense and surrender.
It’s the way we sat in that alley on my birthday, knees pressed together as we spoke through messy sips from brown paper bags, allowing the occasional breaks of silence to say that for which we couldn’t find words. It’s how my gaze danced drunkenly along the frosty pavement, avoiding, at all costs, the truth welling in your eyes.
To be young is the difference between what we could do and what we should do; it’s our uncertainty in direction, our craving of direction, our hesitance to play the cards we’re handed. It’s the way we ricochet so easily between the appeasement of bliss and the acceptance of sorrow; clinging to confidence from the safety of self-depreciation.
It’s the way we roared with laughter that one night in your backyard in a way that we forgot we could: tears staining our wine-flushed cheeks, lungs bursting, ribs aching with joy. It’s how your shirt read “and in this moment, I swear we are infinite” and the way I disagreed; the way I said we were so temporary and that’s what made us special, that’s what made us beautiful — the fleeting nature of our particular forever.
To be young is the way we could, at any moment, fall — cradling the weight of doubt — into the deep, unforgiving rapids of brokenness; the long nights drinking alone, the questions of meaning and the questions of sanity. It’s the rush of a pill tipped back, it’s the hair in your face, it’s the coming down and it’s the throwing up. It’s the dull ache of a hangover, it’s the the clicking of a hashtag, it’s the inevitability of heartbreak.
It’s the first time I saw you cry and the way it made me trust you so surely, so unreservedly, that I wasn’t sure I could bare it. The way we stood in burning silence and offered up our vulnerabilities as a truce, as an unyielding promise that we were in it together, whatever it was — in the kind of way that’s so undefinable by the frivolity of words or an online status.
It’s togetherness without walls.
To be young is to spend what little money we have so that we’re able to make a little more — to run off the fuel of self-belief, however shaky, and let it push us, move our limbs forward, one step at a time, down whichever path beckons in that particular moment. It’s the way we look for love in all the wrong places; find it, lose it; let people hurt us – because sometimes we need to be hurt, because to not be hurt is to be happy – and what is happiness but a glorified state of stagnancy?
We can’t afford such stillness. Stillness is a luxury for the old, for the accomplished. Being young is needing to move.
It’s the time I bought us tickets to see Lorde and the way we were running late for no reason; how you reached for my hand and grabbed it — held it — as we pushed through the crowd until we reached the stage. It’s how we danced and sang and forgot the way everything wasn’t ok, the way we suddenly realized that it didn’t need to be. It’s the abandonment of throwing your arms in the air, screaming into the burning spotlight.
To be young is to embrace the freedom of limitation, to run, blindfolded, into the darkness, howling with exhilaration and fear. It’s the way we clip our hearts to our sleeves and swing them against the gym-built torsos of morons — not just because we can, but because we want to, because we know we shouldn’t; because we need to see how it feels. It’s the way we care so hugely without consideration.
It’s the way your love simmers beneath my surface, beneath my skin, so steady in its presence; reassuring my every decision with unwavering, unspoken support. It’s the time your mother first called me her son, the way she tucked me under her wing and flew without caution into the cold Indiana breeze in the same, brave way she always does; in the way she once did with you.
To be young is to be constantly waiting for acceptance letters and rejection emails that may never arrive. It’s the hitting rock bottom, it’s the 3am phone-calls, it’s the ones who are there for us, and the ones who aren’t. It’s the way we occasionally feel physically, mentally, emotionally unable to face another day — and it’s our doing it regardless.
It’s the way I know that you’re leaving. The way you’re going to fly home, on just another airplane, to the other side of the world, to be the person you are in the place that you’re from. It’s the way I don’t blame you for it, either — how I’m so filled with honest, true excitement by the infinite, boundless possibility that’ll come with you being the person you are.
But mostly, I think, it’s the way you’ll always be there — in the warm hue of memory, or the faded pixels of a photograph — as forever present in mind as you are absent in body, laughing into the wind in the way we once did, in the way adults just cant.
That’s what it is to be young.
By SAMUEL LEIGHTON-DORE