When you are young, you can't wait to grow up. When you get older you suddenly wake up to realise that you can't slow life down fast enough, and dream of going back to the days when you were a wee nipper.
I fondly sit and recall my youth. Those wild days of wreckless abandon when I didn't care about what the world thought, where it didn't matter to me if I was bunking off my lessons, or late to finish an assignment. The pressures of the world meant nothing, and the responsibility of being human were meaningless and unimportant.
If there is one thing I have learnt looking back in retrospect it is that given what I know today, I would have lived my youth up even more. I would have spent every day living my young days to the maximum. I would have put less emphasis on worrying about the things I couldn't change, and lived to enjoy the things I could.
How often do we as mature adults think to ourselves, "If only I had known then, what I do now"?
Yet do we pass this message on to our young people today? I'm not convinced we do it enough.
If we were on our death bed and talking to those we loved, what would we want to pass on to them? Wouldn't we want to encourage them to live every day as if it were their last? Wouldn't we tell them to be all they can be, and try anything for they can become and be whatever they choose to be?
I was blessed to grow up in an environment where I was largely shielded from the complexities of life. Issues like sexuality, peer pressure, drink and drugs were scarce, friendships were simple and life was good. It was more important to know which of us was bringing the tent, than to know who had the dope, or who had caught more fish on the weekend than to know who'd scored a third base at the party.
For this I am really grateful. I had all the time in the world to be a child. I played crazy games, did amazingly stupid things, experienced so much as a child, I look back and think how richly filled my life was with the things we all wish for.
Don't get me wrong, we weren't wealthy, my parents were hard working class people. We didn't have a television till I was in my teens. We only had one car in a family of seven. But as a family we did stuff together. We looked out for each other. We weren't massively close, but close enough.
Those days were critical in establishing who I am today. The adventures and experiences I had back then taught me to be the man I became. I tried things, experimented. Maybe not in the same way the youth do today, but I had the chance to try the things I wanted to experience, I got to choose what I wanted to do. Through those choices I have been able to do and experience some pretty amazing things as a person. I've seen and done some remarkable things. Would I ever have done them if I didn't have the childhood I did? I don't think so.
I listened to a program on the radio in the car today. In the program they were talking to two young people here in the UK who last year took part in a new government initiative to give places to tens of thousands of young people to get involved in Voluntary Community Outreach Programs. The youth get to take part in a variety of team building exercises and design their own community program to impact their local area.
The thing that struck me listening to both young people was when they both spoke about their frustration at the lack of things for young people to do today. That is so sad. It breaks my heart that a whole generation of young people are forced to grow up before their time. Society has changed I accept that, but is it right to watch as a sixteen year old struggles with life decisions that are confusing enough for an adult who's somewhat more experienced and is maybe more equipped to deal with these complexities. Twelve year olds smoking, and fifteen year olds binge drinking? That's not right surely?
I know that if you were to ask a young person, they would promptly want to be treated as a more responsible person and given the freedom to choose, but from my own personal perspective I'd much rather go back to those care free days I enjoyed as a young teenager, than face the daily challenge of being an adult, and I guess that can only come from the experience of growing up. Do we not as adults have a responsibility to allow our youth to be youth and give them a chance to just be kids?
If there is one thing that I can pass on to the young of today it would be to say this. Don't grow up too fast. Treasure the precious days of your youth. Be wild, be outrageous, paint the town red, and enjoy every single moment that you can. There will be ups and downs, challenges and rewards, mistakes and choices, changes, friends, relationships, heartbreak, love, discovery, adventure and so much more. Don't dwell on the things you have no control over, and try everything you can. Enjoy yourself and be good to yourself. Believe in you and love who and what you are. Your special, unique and important. Challenge and be challenged. Be all you can be every day and never forget to do today what you shouldn't put off till tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come.
Thought for today - "Lord grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." - Prayer of Serenity by Rhienhold Neibhur
Song for today - Shining Light by Ash [media=]