In may ways the concept of youth puzzles me. To me, youth is more a responsibility-oriented state of mind than an age-related certainty. In my mind ‘youthful’ (in other words ‘selfish’) behaviour can be found in many age-groups – some people just never seem to have to grow up and take responsibility for themselves or others. They retain an inner self-centredness that allows them to remain focused on their own sense of place in the world in relation to everyone else, no matter what.
It seems to me to be that a feeling of youthfulness can be a lot to do with closely identifying with or being part of the younger generation in your direct family, however old you may be. And in my experience there’s something compelling about the logistics of family tree links that creates such a clear demarcation between the generations and lets you know exactly where you stand in the grander scheme of things in life.
In that sense my youth didn’t seem to last very long, as my first baby was born a short month before my 19th birthday and so already I was no longer the youngest generation in my family. I was no longer the future, the bright young thing. I was already a relict. Almost 20 years later, and only a couple of weeks past my 38th birthday my first grandchild was born. In that moment I moved yet another step back, one more step removed from where it was all at.
Do I miss it, that feeling of youth? Well, you can’t really miss what you’ve never had. Sometimes when life gets too much I wonder how nice it might be not to have all these generations of people to think about, both behind me and in front. Just to think of me. My grandmother was still alive when my first grandchild was born, so I was all at the one time a granddaughter, daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother – not the easiest of positions from which to feel the centre of your own universe.
Hierarchically I may have been in the middle of five generations, but on a personal level I felt as if I was invisible, unimportant. It’s only now, as menopausal middle-age sets in, that I’m beginning to feel truly comfortable with my place in my family and the world. I’m growing into myself at last, I’m learning to feel a sense of peace, a coming of age and I have to say it feels remarkably good. Youth is decidedly over-rated for me, and so far middle-age is definitely where it’s all at 🙂