“Oh, it would be nice to be eighteen again.”
“I, for one, am happy to be the age I am.”
“You say that now, but when you’re my age you’ll be wishing you were younger.”
This exchange reminded me of one of the more interesting episodes of Twilight Zone – and a great point about memory. The episode is the story of a man who constantly talks about the past – how great the fair was when he was a kid, the best sweets and shakes to eat, and uncontested excellent television shows. In the course of the episode, he finds himself in the past – as an adult by-stander watching himself as a kid going about his day. It struck him how he didn’t remember that the street was so busy and dirty as a kid. Then some bullies appeared and ruined his day. The adult version realized that what he was remembering was the best of the best, but not what had really happened.
When these elders were thinking back to how great it was to be eighteen, they were thinking about being eighteen as it was decades in the past. Being a teenager in the late sixties to early seventies would be a whole different matter compared to being a teenager right here, right now.
Born in the late 1990s, younger millenials grew up in a world where the internet and cellphones were ubiquitous. Aside from the advanced technology, school shootings increased – with a big tragic one making the news every few years (or couple of months in a bad year.) America’s foreign policy position turned into a prolonged occupation and finally a withdraw from the Middle East. A major recession sent shock-waves through the economy, housing went into a free-fall, with the banks breaking Wall Street in order to get rich. Christians had a particularly difficult year – given the rise of “I kissed dating goodbye” as well as the emphasis on biblical marriage in order to take a stand against marriage equality. Christians lost on that score – with the conversation now being moved to transgender and gender identity questions. The rules seemed to constantly shift – but the millenials managed to take it all in stride.
Being eighteen, young and healthy, in the prime of life – is pretty great. No major health scares (unless you’re one of the ones who had to fight for your life as a teenager.) But being eighteen in the sixties or in the seventies is one thing, being eighteen here and now is another. The world has really changed and it’s not going back. I guess the lesson out of all of this is that the millenials will one day be the elders who will miss being eighteen – but they might not miss all the bad news that came with being eighteen.
Thing is – for every eighteen year old – no matter what year it is – they don’t have a choice. They have to take the good with the bad. They get to enjoy awesome concerts and disappointed elders who won’t be happy until they’re working and/or married as soon as possible. They get to be on the right side of history and deal with everyone else who’ll be remembered as being on the wrong side of history. Some eighteen year olds have to fight so much harder than others – and others seem to have it easy. Eighteen has always been a tough age – and so has every other age. We should enjoy where we’re at – not everyone gets to make it that far. We should look to make each day memorable and a good one. And when it’s a bad day, then we should find someone to keep us company to make it easier. As the old song goes – the sun will come up tomorrow.