Why this generation claims that the climax of one’s lifetime has to be experienced during adolescence is still a mystery to me. Right after the purgatory of puberty and way before the adulthood antics, those are the years when it’s mildly acceptable by society to be experimental.
There is this idea of associating the precocious-atrocious teenage years some of us miss (I certainly don’t), with the epic momentum of our lifetime. Lessons we (don’t) learn, dreams built in quicksand and washed away with cheap strawberry flavoured vodka, the illusion of an everlasting youth and everything else that came with those turbulent times – love, hate, rage, anger, anguish, angst, rebellion, hormonal molotov cocktails, heartbreak, hope and hopelessness. All of that, light years away from a dull, bland boredom somewhere between the feared late 20s and a middle aged crisis.
Well, I don’t miss those years. In fact, I strongly disagree with the theory that tells kids to have fun or behave craaaaaay at a certain age, because there is an age to have fun and an age to settle down – like everything must be done, tried, experimented, been and seen before 21 or you’re not cool. As if peer pressure wasn’t enough, society standards incorporate subtle rules; like you are supposed to enjoy life the most before even knowing the meaning of responsibility, moderation or balance. It’s like handing a Ferrari to someone who has never driven and expect them not to crash.
I have never succumbed to the glamourising or romanticising of the ‘first-timer’. The first time I got drunk, it was so long ago, I can barely remember – seriously, it feels like it happened in a different lifetime. The first time I had sex, it was so terrible, I wish I couldn’t remember it. First time I smoked, I felt both disgusted and unable to hold the smoke in my lungs – basically made a fool out of myself – which was a good thing, I suppose, since I’ve never felt tempted to repeat it. There weren’t that many first time experiences during my teenage years. In fairness, they were beyond boring compared to my mid-twenties, when I actually started to embrace the sense of freedom I had never had when I was younger (only child + Portuguese parents + small town.)
Not that I didn’t have any fun at all when I was 16, but I was just an insecure daydreamer who wasn’t ready to enjoy the simple and complex pleasures of life at its fullest. Maybe because of the lack of emotional maturity and the abudance of dangerously unrealistic expectations, which sometimes led me to burden a twisted image of myself, reality and life in general. I can’t really say I miss the zenith of my youth; naive and vulnerable, not able to handle my penchant for self-destruction or to even deal with my tendency to obsess over the wrong person. I was far from being a cool kid. Ah, the horrors of a coming of age story with no rites of passage, binge drinking (ok, maybe a little) or hook ups to brag about.
So, now that I’m nearly 30 and feel comfortable and confident enough to be socially selective, refusing to end up in toxic company or waste my time with boredom-inducing activities, I do embrace my hedonist dilettante lifestyle; constantly engaging in all things related to satisfaction, joy and pleasure. It took me nearly three decades to attain this laidback ease that finally enables me to accept the way I am and the way I perceive things. More importantly, the reason why I live life more vividly nowadays, is because I have a more polished notion of time and it’s passing by, not waiting for anybody.
Getting older only makes me savour the present and its sequence of moments in spectacular fashion. I become more aware of how ephemeral existence is and every sensation is more welcome than ever. The numb nonchalance of my long lost teenage years is gone, but youth is still my state of mind. More rock and roll! More fabulous lingerie! More wine! Louder! Harder! Better! Stronger! (OK, this sounds too much like Daft Punk now, I’ll stop.)
However, I find myself reading articles that only make me feel inferior for not having been there, done that “before 30”. Jesus, I’m only just warming up and these people are instigating a fear of missing out only because some of us are late bloomers? Am I suddenly too old to sweat all over the dancefloor ‘til sunrise and go after partying in some basement? To have impromptu road trips with semi-strangers, start learning a new skill and fall in love with the same (or more) intensity, euphoria and passion than when I was 17?
Youth is not forever, neither is life. But present is still alive and kicking and so am I. So we have the right to party, fuck like animals, nurse our hangovers with junkfood, swear out loud, watch cartoons at 4am, go on a solo camping trip all at the age of 16, 26 or 66. Doesn’t matter. It’s just a fucking number anyway. So stop telling me when to do things, or worse, when not to do things and preaching your own concept of timing that is ruining my anxiety-free moments of serenity.
We are entitled to have fun for however long we want, until our ashes take over. Just because you’ve only now found a job you don’t dislike, a passion for a hobby that caught you by surprise or a lover who might just be the best kisser ever, it doesn’t mean you’re late. Everyone else was early, that’s all.