For as long as I can remember, I have always been the young one. I have always had older friends, been surrounded by adults, and grew up with two older brothers. This led to me being the youngest person in nearly every scenario, and that fact was being pointed out often. It wasn’t always necessarily a negative thing, but it was there, in the back of everyone’s mind, and of course my own mind.
My brothers used to give me the classic, “Maybe when you’re older, kid” whenever I wanted to join them in doing something. With there being an 11 year difference between us, me being too young for their activities was definitely real. While they were off smoking weed at 15, I was only five years old making mud pies; wishing desperately I could be old enough to fit in their crew and join in on the fun they seemed to be having.
Then there were all of my relatives who saw me as the “baby”; my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. For many years, I was the youngest cousin, niece, grandchild on both my mother and father’s side of the family. This ultimately led to me being babied, spoiled, and undeniably loved of course. But I was especially seen as a child who didn’t know better for a lot of my life. I remember all too well what it felt like to have my opinion thrown out the window as soon as I opened my mouth, just because of my age. It seemed people would roll their eyes at the thought of me having anything important to say. “You’ll understand when you’re older,” they would tell me.
This led to me being sort of bitter, and resentful of being a young person. I spent my days imaging what it would be like to sit at a desk, and organize Dog Adoption papers (for the animal shelter I want to open one day). I would sit at my mom’s computer and type out forms, and pretend fax, and I’d do a lot of highlighting with my mom’s fancy highlighters. I’d even dress in my nicer clothing to give the entire scenario more emphasis. I was a child playing, just as any child would, but the difference was I couldn’t wait to really get there.
I spent a good portion of my young life wishing I wasn’t so young.
In contrast, every once and awhile, I would meet somebody who would call me “an old soul”. This confirmed what I felt in my heart to be true: What I had to say mattered, what I thought for myself was valid, and my dreams and aspirations were not too far fetched despite how young I was. I was intelligent and wise, not young and dumb, just because I hadn’t “lived enough life yet to know better”. Age was and is nothing but a number. It does not dictate how much wisdom you carry, and how much information you possess. What time gives all of us is experience, and at a young age, I had already experienced a lot. Through our experiences, we find there are plenty of lessons, and over time, the more we learn. The beautiful part about being young, is the ability to bounce back, pick yourself up, and try again. You can do this at any time, but when you are young, the elasticity of everything is more potent.
There is a deep sense of longing when you are the youngest child, always plagued by this fact that you’re just too young for most things that you want to do. For me, it felt like being left out and feeling left behind. I think this burning desire to be old enough, made me grow up too fast in many ways; eager to let go of my child-like sense of wonder and head straight into adolescence. Which, as you know, comes with its own set of heartache, and vulnerability. There is a certain poetic beauty to being young and naive to a lot of things in life, and I believe most bitter adults are products of getting burnt by that young ignorance.
There is a young girl in my life now who I have known since she was born. She is brave, kind, and genuine. Part of me wants to shelter her from the pain of this world, but the other part of me knows that she is both young enough and wise enough to carry her heart gracefully through any storm that may come her way.
So many of us spend our youth wishing it that it would go by faster, wishing the years would fast forward so maybe we could get to the good stuff. Even now, I will find myself longing for the days I get to be a mother, or for the day I write my book, or the laundry list of things that it just isn’t the time for yet. We can learn so much from ourselves at ages 4 or 5, when the world was just beginning for us, and we truly felt like anything was possible. Could you blame us? We really didn’t know any better…
I wanted to be a veterinarian and own animal shelter when I grew up. Oh, and I wanted to be an author. And I really wanted to be a singer. And… the list went on.
Jacob wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. Guess he hasn’t grown up yet, because he is obviously not an astronaut (sorry, Jake, there’s still time).
I have known people who grew up to do exactly what their childhood selves always imagined for them. When I became of age to start filling out college applications, in the midst of my mother falling ill and my world falling apart, I quickly realized that my dreams of becoming a veterinarian were not going to work out for me. There was a different path in store for me, and in reality, most of us go through that moment of clarity or panic at those very crossroads. I chose not to go to college and travel instead. Some peers of mine were calling it something sophisticated like “a gap year” and I was referring to it as simply giving my soul a break. My entire life had changed in every single way, and everything I knew was different. This required my former self to level up. This is when I realized every decision I made for myself had to be for my own happiness.
I was finally in the position young Izzy desperately wanted to be in: an adult with no one to answer to, able to make my own decisions and live life on my terms.
And truthfully, I was terrified.
The years that followed were years of growth, mistakes, and an abundance of learning. I watched as many of my peers continued their college careers, graduated, got engaged, had babies, and started buying houses. I continued to travel, create art, write, and collect stories along the way. I moved six times, once to California and back, did a lot of silly things, and also did a lot of courageous things. Somehow, I still felt young, and I still felt like I was being left behind.
It has felt kind of exhausting, and a little bit annoying all at once.
How many times has a person over 50 heard an old song playing and scoffed, “Oh you’re too young to know this!” (The joke is always on them, I was raised on oldies and I always know the song.) Or “Gosh you were born what year?! I’d already done x y and z before you were born!” (I’m sure, Grandpa, I’m sure).
Even on the internet, comments often say things like:
“Come on, you kids.” “Ya’ll are just young” “Just wait until you grow up and have to live in the REAL world”
Leave it to people with a lot of regrets about the way they have spent their lives to project those fears, judgments and insecurities onto you. Again, age does not define you, or what you know. What this life gives us is experience, and what we do with that experience is our choice, no matter your age.
This year, on my birthday, something shifted in me.
I realized I need to stop taking it for granted. I will never be this young again! Being young is a blessing. Being alive at all is a blessing. And every day on Earth is a gift.
Today, I am 23. That age somehow feels old and young all at the very same time. My brother was only 25 when he left this Earth. Maybe that is part of the shift that happened in me. I know how precious our time is here, and I don’t want to waste any of the years I have been given. This age feels refreshing and also kind of intimidating, in a good way.
I am only 23 and at times, I feel as though I have lived a hundred lives. To the depths I have felt, loved, and lost; there are moments when I close my eyes and I feel ancient. And then, I will be giggling, laughing like a child at an immature joke, and I’ll be reminded how young I still am.
And to be honest, I like that.
I like that I can dance effortlessly between those two places. This age I am at, this place I am in… it calls for all of me. Recently I dove head first into running my own online business, which, I have found, takes a lot of patience, organization, and dedication. It means being timely, and diligent. Things that I definitely was not, at age 15. Over time, I have become a person capable of managing this. The life I have built also requires a lot of effort in not taking myself too seriously. I want to write poetry and books, be playful, and learn how to let go. To me, that is wisdom I had at 7, that I must’ve lost somewhere along the way.
This age asks for every part of me to show up. I’m not too old to have wasted my youth. I’m not entering adulthood with too many regrets. I am young enough to be bold. And I am old enough to know when to be.
I am beginning and I have also begun. The same is true for you. At any age, you can start again. Do not wish for tomorrow to come sooner, instead think about what you can do today to improve tomorrow.
I wish I could send so much love to my younger self, and tell her that being young is wonderful.
Somebody said this to me the other day that inspired me writing this, they said,
“You know, you guys are still young, you can do this. You’re still young, so you have time to figure it out. You don’t have to have everything figured out right now, just live while you can, while you’re still young.”
Maybe at times I still feel lost, like I wonder when I will wake up one day and be a fully-functioning adult with all of life’s answers, and a set sleeping schedule, and even a planner maybe?
But I’m no longer in a hurry to figure any of that out right now. I don’t want to wish any of this away. Young, wild, dumb, and free.
So, I think we are just going to keep living, while we’re still young.
“An old soul with a child-like disposition.”