I keep thinking of the question presented to Meryl Streep in an interview asking her what advice she would give her younger self, now that she has so much life experience under her belt. Her answer, as highlighted on a People Magazine ‘Quotes from the Stars’ page, didn’t particularly move me, something along the lines of she wouldn’t pay as much attention to how much she weighed, but the question keeps haunting me.
What would I tell my young self starting out, now having the adult perspective of how the world works and the various ways I’ve fit into it to date? Hands down it would have to be to keep looking at the world through a young person’s perspective.
The curiosity to learn about new ideas, people, places, and things. The emotional immaturity that leads to the inability to hold back your thoughts. The lack of judgement that lends to making mistakes. The tender lack of life experience that allows you the freedom to say “I don’t know.” The sheer enthusiasm and devotion to pleasure. The balls to think that you can change the world.
Society tells us to grow up, pull it together, and settle down. Think stability, commitment, procreation. All incredibly important things. But what about contribution, communication, and growth? I think if we held on to more of our rose-colored young outlook on life we’d be better off as a society. Learning doesn’t end at high school, college, or graduate school graduation….it’s eternal if we’re lucky enough to keep an open mind. When we stop looking for answers, we stop growing, period. Yet there’s an interesting caveat attached to many when we stop learning. The brain is shady, as it tricks us into believing we actually know everything since we’re no longer taking in new info. We become self-proclaimed experts, and spend our lives digging our heels into the ground protecting what we think we know, instead of just opening our minds to hearing something new.
Somehow we have bought into the idea that we have to fit into the traditional societal norms of ‘becoming an adult’ by achieving the same way our classmates do, loving the same way everyone else does, parenting the same way our neighbors do, judging in the precise fashion our family taught us to, and living our life in a way that is packaged squarely for show. Who does that benefit? Not me, not you. It simply supports structure of societal norms that will keep on keeping on until it’s pushed to the limit and broken.
So today, or this week, or maybe even this year, put on your pre-adult glasses, and look at your world and your life through a young person's perspective. What do see? What can you learn? What do you have the courage to change in yourself and the world?