I’ve been listening to a lot of the Top Lists on Spotify. Two songs are currently in the top 20 that deal with celebrating youth,”Young, Wild & Free” by Wiz Khalifa and “We Are Young” by Fun. I hope the songs cheer up today’s youth, because they surely don’t have much else to celebrate. Unless, of course, you’re one of the 1.3 children per family of the cultural and economic elite, in which case you’re rich and educated enough to feel slap-happy despite the depressing pit we’ve dug for the rest of America.
Yes, they’re young . . . that’s something to celebrate, anyway. I guess.
It’s spring, and I would expect a bunch of lighthearted pop to be trending upwards right now. These two songs aren’t especially cheerful, though. Drunkenness features heavily in both songs, dragging home from the bar with the faint hope of having someone there to keep you from choking on your vomit. Whee. Is that what youth is equated with? Getting drunk, getting stoned, having a facile relationship with someone . . . sigh. I feel bad for my oldest kids, since they’re dragging up the ass end of Gen Y. My youngest kids, well, maybe things will be different for them. Maybe youth won’t be as disaffected and drunken, maybe there will be some of that hope that people were promised . . . I have doubts, though. My youngest two are children of a different breed from the older kids. They’re tougher, somehow, more resilient. When I think about that too much, I start wondering if they’re built that way for a reason. If, perhaps, we’re in for a stormy period like WWII was . . . maybe they’re the next Greatest Generation, still in diapers and grade school.
I don’t feel especially old most days, although I have enough gray in my hair to make a monthly appointment with Miss Clairol a must. No major wrinkles yet, haven’t had any joints replaced, and I can still listen to something besides the music I listened to in high school. To the teenagers of today, I undoubtedly seem like a relic of some lost age, back before cellphones and Facebook and, yes, even digital online music. And I remember being sixteen, seventeen, eighteen . . . there wasn’t any major sense of hope and optimism among my peers. The only cheerful kids were the Mormons, and, well, yeah, we thought they were freaks. We were firmly entrenched in Generation X, already jaded by the time we got to junior high and carrying our latchkeys around our necks along with a sense that everything our parents had said was lies.
Man, we could have used the Internet back then. At least we’d have had access to all the good music instead of just the crap played on MTV (I recall an endless repeating of 10 songs per week, basically) and we’d have been able to learn a little more about the world instead of just sinking into the gloom of the early 90’s . . . Nirvana, anyone? Gag. Not your hopeful sorts, there.
I feel hope, though. I wouldn’t have produced a bunch of kids if I truly thought that these were the End Times and that everything was going to fly apart. And the baby is not quite 3 . .. not an “accident” but a kid we had to try for a year just to conceive. You have to keep hope alive, to use the hoary old phrase. Faith, hope, and love . .. they’re all vital to making things /work/ . . . if we lose them, there is indeed nothing left. There’s a line in an Apocalyptica song . . . “All love, like fame, is fleeting, when there’s no hope anymore.” You cannot commit yourself to the suffering of love if you don’t believe the sun will rise in the morning.
Hope has to be nourished, though. Faith has to be asked for. Love has to be worked for.
That’s why I talk to my kids about the stuff that’s wrong with the world. That’s why I talk to them about what THEY can DO about it. They need to feel like there’s hope. There needs to be a path. I probably don’t have a clue what that path will be, but if I get /them/ thinking about it, maybe they’ll figure it out. They’re the future, they’re the hope– IF we nourish them and plant the seeds in them. If we let them know that there’s nothing wrong with asking questions, but that sometimes there just isn’t an easy answer but an answer that will require them to bleed and suffer.
A pretty good Lenten thought, actually . . . I know a lot of kids think that it’s supposed to be easier than it is. Like they can just coast along and everything’s gonna work out. Well, sometimes it don’t. And you have to drag yourself out of whatever pit you’ve fallen into and keep trudging along. You have to have hope to do that. Sometimes, even faith can feel like shackles around your neck and hands, sometimes there’s no sweet easy comfort and a happy-slappy Jesus to tell you that it’s alright to do whatever ya wanna do, he doesn’t mind. And love . . . man, love’s hard. You can’t make it work if you think it should be ecstasy and sexytimes all the time. Sometimes it’s more like being crucified on a cross of mortgage payments and boredom.
I wish I was younger. Not gonna lie– I’d love to have that resilient skin again, not these hands that already look like I’m wearing gloves a half size too big, all scrunched up at the joints. I’d love the energy and passion and, yeah, sometimes I’d even love to be that ignorant again. It’s a lot easier. I don’t want my kids to be jaded, to sour on all the promise and joy that’s still inherent to this life, this world. I want them . . . to have hope. To be young. To be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. They’re living in a jaded world filled with every evil. We have to feed their hope. We have to pull on our big-girl panties and tell them that, yeah, it looks rough out there, but there’s an infinite number of ways that we can make that world better.
That hope keeps me going even when it seems like the pain is too much. My hope in them . . . and in our shared future.