Do you remember your first cigarette? Your first taste of alcohol? The first time you kissed someone? Do you remember when you lost your virginity?
Do you remember when you lost your innocence. Some people remember it slipping through their fingers. They think they want it gone. They think that if they grow up faster, then the world will start to magically fall into place. Like it’s a beautiful moment that can be obtained through time, as opposed to through experience and hard work, and perseverance, and all of those other special things that cannot be rushed. They rush them anyway. Does growing up mean moving out of your childhood home, where happy memories are few and far between? Does it mean following your passions and moving to a city of lights, and falling in love instead of falling apart? You will wish time had stood still in a moment where you could see the future as something beautifully within your reach, until you realise that, quite like the stars, you can’t catch them anytime soon.
I know a boy who started stress smoking when he was fifteen years old. Year nine, and he’d heard that smoking could release certain chemicals in one’s brain that reduced stress. He figured it was better than grinding his teeth and pulling his hair out and carving lines into his skin. But the thing about being fifteen years old at a private school and having strict parents meant that he couldn’t have a cigarette every time he felt like he needed one. And as he grew older, he needed them more, until the year after he graduated high school, when it seemed he could go for months without feeling the need to smoke. I think he was thankful for that.
I know a girl who started drinking alcohol when she was sixteen years old. It seemed easy to sneak past people. She could buy a bottle of soft drink, consume some of it, and then pour a shot or two of liquor into the bottle. That year, she got a job, and was drinking vodka and coke out the back of the fast food restaurant, unbeknownst to anyone. She started using alcohol to numb the noise in her brain a lot more once she turned 18. She didn’t have to convince people to buy her anything anymore. She went clubbing almost every week. She was addicted to nightlife, and the way it made her feel. She’d fool around with strangers, both male and female, because as long as they were paying attention to her, she felt worthy of love. She once told me that she doesn’t remember most of their faces. If you asked her to pick them out of a line-up, she wouldn’t be able to tell you who they were. This meaningless existence almost seemed meaningful at the time. She felt like she was getting somewhere.
Really, it was all escapism. He was smoking away his fears like they could disappear like the fumes and disintegrate with the ash that collected around his feet. She was drinking to drown the tears that formed on her face whenever she thought about her future, and how little she was working to achieve what she thought she wanted. They wanted to fast forward their lives, be 50-years-old and content with everything enough to finally die without fearing that they would be leaving behind an unlived future. There is no pleasure to be gained from living forever, or living at all. People on this planet live for way too long. There are people who are still so obsessed with immortality. They wanted a more fleeting existence.
We’re born. The way I see it, we spend as much time as we feel we need to learning about the world as we can through the education system. Some of us drop out and start working in trades. Others become artists in their own right. Others are still learning well into their 20s to become something more – lawyers, doctors, politicians. We then spend a chunk of time working simultaneously on our careers and love lives. Some of us lose things. Then, some of us die, too. We live too long, and start regretting things. We have children who may grow up to hate and resent us. What is the joy in immortality? We all one day have to die, and leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren and ancestors to grow up into. Let the youth of today map the world. Too many elders are still trying to call the shots, even though they know it’s not their future. Their time has come and gone. Let it rest. Let what you do with your life speak louder than how you look. Retire into meaningless nothingness. Let the youth be in charge of their own destinies.
Too many speeches start and end with a quote by some old dead cisgender heterosexual white male. Sometimes, people will shake it up and add a quote by Martin Luther King Jr, or Virginia Woolf. But they’re dead and gone, and although the sentiments may be well intended still for today’s society, the words they said were meant for a different context, and a world that no longer exists. So why do we keep repeating the words? The answer is, of course, because it still matters. No matter what we do, it seems that the world will always be the same, just with different people in charge. What’s the point?
Maybe the point is to try and live and make a difference while we’re still here. Maybe the point is to lose our innocence and embrace rebellion in the sense that it is intended – make a difference, and make it fucking count, or sit down, shut up, and let someone else do the dirty work. Maybe those are the only options left. And here they are, still smoking and drinking and killing their insides but what does it matter? We all die anyway.