Friday, November 20, 2009

Youth is wasted on the young
-George Bernard Shaw

When I was a child I fell down a lot. I was always running, always in a hurry to get where I was going. Consequently I was usually decorated with bandages, especially on my knees and elbows and lost my toenail more than once due to a stubbed toe acquired while running up concrete steps in flip flops. (A quick aside here: in those days we called them thongs, but I might give you the wrong impression if I say that as a five year old I liked to run around in thongs.) In addition to the running and falling, I managed to fall off a swing while soaring to great heights and knocked my front teeth so loose they were removed by the dentist an hour later. Since I was five at the time and my adult teeth were nowhere near ready to come in, I spent several years with a charming toothless grin. In case you get the impression that I was a daredevil I will confess that a couple of years prior to these incidents I was too terrified to go into my own back yard due to the presence of a large and menacing beach ball.

Why am I telling these character damaging tales of my youth? Well, it seems that all of that early childhood dashing about was quite symbolic of a tendency towards haste that dominated my childhood right through to the infancy of my adulthood. I remember that as far back as eight years old, and perhaps earlier, all I wanted was to be a grown up. Blissfully ignorant of death and taxes I couldn't wait to move forward and shed youth. I pictured myself a strong and independent woman. The fantasies acted out in play provided me with my own funky apartment, a motorcycle and a fantastic career as a writer or veterinarian or singer and occasionally allowed a grateful man to be part of my life.

As much as it is tempting to smile indulgently at this little girl I once was, I am somewhat sad for her. She was so serious. In particular, she took herself too seriously. With a maturity often commented on by adults the poor little thing lived to please them and be accepted by them. All she wanted was to be one of them. The older she got the more trouble she had relating to her peers. The frivolity and immaturity of most teens was embarrassing to be associated with. While the other kids at school dressed in jeans, the girl who scorned childhood dressed like she had a job at an office. "You are quite the rebel." A teacher once said to her.

"oh no I'm not. Rebels dress in jeans. The other kids are the rebels" Rebels are kids, her twisted thinking told her. You are too mature to be a rebel.

Time sped by in the way that time does. Ms Not a Rebel entered her twenties and was dismayed to find out she was an infant in the adult world. Just a kid with no experience in work or in life. For a short time she lived in a small northern community where girls married their high school sweethearts and were matronly wife-mother creatures at the age of twenty five, with three kids, 50 extra pounds they would never lose and a Zellers credit card. To these women our poor Ms Not a Rebel was also Ms Not a Woman. Where did she belong? She was lost and confused.

Somehow she made it to her thirties, that wonderful decade of career building, marriage building and motherhood that kept her so busy there was no time to notice whether or not she was finally an adult. Then she died.

Please understand, dear friend, that is the best thing that could have happened to her. She died but it was not the end; no she was reborn. She had fun and she laughed and sometimes she was really immature, just for fun, just to be silly, and she shared her love and her laughter and all that she knew and all that she didn't know and it was okay. It was good. I'm so glad I met her. She is a great friend and companion. She keeps me from taking myself too seriously. She looks back at her past somewhat wistfully-oh to do it over! But there is time. There is so much time, because she has now. She always has now.

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