Wednesday, September 10, 2014
That Was My Youth
September 10, 2014
Last night I went to see the new play This Is Our Youth on Broadway. What follows here is not a review, just some reflections I've got spinning around in my head, reflections on my own life and youth after seeing this show.
The show never, as I could tell, used the phrase, "This is our youth", despite the fact that I'd hoped to hear it by the end of the second act. Instead, it showed us a trio of early-20-somethings stuck in a life they didn't expect, musing about what their lives might one day be, and reminiscing about the innocence of their past.
When I think of my own life, I often get lost in all the years between birth and now. My mind doesn't immediately turn to memories of my youth or teenage years, or even to my 20s or 30s. These four decades now mostly behind me in the rear-view mirror are all there, colliding as one big image. I keep one hand on the steering wheel as I adjust the mirror, and see them all just together, waving at me from the road behind.
Like the play, my youth included some illicit activities, underage drinking, drugs, and even running from the authorities and jumping over fences to escape. How did that happen? How did I go from Catholic school kid with thoughts of the priesthood to bong-sucking 11th grader trying to fit in? Where was the jump from making altar boy of the month at St. Agnes Cathedral to being 17 and passing a fake ID to a bartender in Far Rockaway?
My life, like my youth, has been filled with these moments of discovery and experimentation. Sometimes I made conscious, adult decisions to reach a certain experience, but more often than not, I just went with the flow, and tried my best not to worry too much. I cursed, drank, and inhaled my way through hangouts with friends and strangers, and hoped to God no one would ever find out I was just a scared gay kid who felt completely lost in an unfriendly world.
And so as I keep looking back at the road and roads behind me through the rear-view mirror, I can't help but see all my youth now relocated to the past, and not the future. I don't expect only 100% maturity and sound decisions in my future, but I know I can no longer blame my youth for the mistakes I sometimes make.
I tilt the mirror up slightly, and then grab hold of the wheel with both hands. My gaze returns to the road ahead of me. And though I'll take the occasional glance backward to see what might be following me into the future, I'll mostly keep looking forward. Who knows how far my car will take me, but I've come so far already, and I plan to enjoy whatever awaits me up ahead.