In a conversation with a friend the other day, I mentioned my upcoming birthday. He made one of those comments which younger people (he's more than ten years my junior) are sometimes given to, gently poking fun at the fact that I'll be moving further away from youth. It was something like 'enjoy your old man-ness', if I remember. No offence was intended, nor was any taken, our friendship long having reached that happy stage where we may merrily rip one another to shreds all in the name of a cheap gag. We both know that's there's virtually nothing one can say to the other that would cause upset.
It got me thinking though. There does seem to be a perception amongst some younger people that older generations are, or should be, jealous of youth. Maybe there's some truth in that belief, but it's always seemed a strange idea to me. My reply was something along the lines of 'It's a fair system. We all get to be young. If we're lucky we get to be old too.' Of course there are advantages to being young. You are given more leeway - room to play, to experiment, and to make mistakes. There are fewer responsibilities for most. But those who are not young any more have already been young, and carry with them the wisdom and experience that brings, not to mention the joy and sense of fun they always had, even if for some it is exercised less often, or less extravagantly.
I've never had the slightest pang of jealousy of someone based on their youth. Youth is to be celebrated and lived and enjoyed. There's nothing more beautiful than seeing human beings develop through the whole gamut of experiences offered by our society, and by life. If there's any less than positive thought that enters my head regarding young people it's fear. Fear that the opportunities previous generations had will no longer be there when they are older. Fear that the mistakes the human race has made, and continues to make, will make the road ahead less clear, more hazardous, and potentially even impassable. It's important that those who used to be young give those who still are the space to grow, the basis for some optimism for the future, and the resources to take up the mantle when the time comes. If that cycle were ever to be broken... well, it hardly bears thinking about.
You may note that I categorise myself as neither young nor old. By most definitions, including statistical ones (in this country at least), I remain a youngster, at least for another couple of years, and certainly anyone who knows me well would describe me as childish. I've never yet been worried by a year being added to my age, nor a line to my brow, nor a pair of spectacles to my face. Unsightly nasal hair is another matter, but it's not such a hassle to remove it now and then. I'm not sure whether I was building up to a point here or not. I suppose I'm just saying that it's not youth that's precious, it's life. Whenever I list the things that excite me, interest me, make me feel most alive, I realise that hardly any of them require youth. That is one of my favourite, most comforting thoughts, actually.