I remember parents, friends, and virtual strangers from high school all telling me to “soak it up – these are the best years of your life.”
Pop songs and cable TV seemed to agree with them. All the lyrics about teenage love seemed to say that feelings would never be more ardent and that dedication would never be so earnest. As Yellowcard sang, “we were both sixteen and it felt so right, sleeping all day, staying up all night.”
Both the O.C. and Gossip Girl would lead to widespread misconceptions about how tall and muscular 14-year-old boys are and how certain of her life goals an 18-year-old girl should be. Although the classrooms and authority figures seemed vaguely familiar, I failed to identify with the “highschoolers” played by 20-somethings and the lines written for them by 30- and 40-somethings.
At graduation, in a burgundy cap and gown listening to a classmate cover the Beatle’s “In My Life,” I couldn’t help thinking that I had been robbed of the “Teenage Dream.”
I thought back to all those people who insisted that this was the best it would ever be and thought, “God, I hope not.”
I remember a similar feeling four years later, sitting in the red velvet chairs of the Teatre du Chatelet in a black cap and gown, waiting to receive my Bachelor’s degree. For every person who hailed high school as the high point of life, there are twice as many who would argue that it is college.
As I enter my mid-twenties I hear a new chorus of 30-somethings contradicting all of them, asserting that this will be the decade that I remember as “the good old days.”
Luckily I am old enough to take these statements with a grain of salt, because longing for the past is now easier than ever and can be filtered in 1977, Crema or Rise.
I don’t prescribe to the myth of the noble saving, saying that we were all born wild and wonderful only to be tamed by the world. I am reassured in knowing that I can grow, even if it means growing old.
Youth isn’t a currency I ever felt comfortable trading in. Unlike knowledge, skills or taste, youth is engaged in a constant battle against time, with every day eroding the innocence that makes us act young and the collagen that keeps us looking it.
It may be my personal failing, but the most romantic thing a 16-year-old boy ever did for me was share the raspberry Smirnoff vodka his older brother bought him, which we drank at a house party in someone’s basement. And while it may have been fun to quote Camus in college, it’s not everything.
The boys have improved, and I like to think that I have too and will continue to do so.
Because sometimes a chorus of “Wouldn’t it be Nice (if we were older),” is more soothing than “Forever Young.”
Angela Waters is an American jazz singer-turned-journalist, who is always curious about how to do things herself, from making the perfect Sidecar to carpentry.