Whenever I find myself hanging with people my own age, I sometimes wish I was amongst the young and the restless. It's not that I don't enjoy mature adults with defined points of view, but that's kind of my point. The older I get the more interested I've become in combating my tendency to settle down into patterns of acceptance and softness. There is just something about youth that keeps the conversations and thinking vital.
A few years ago, my wife introduced me to Nick, a friend she'd made at work. Nick was a cocky 21 year old full of more vinegar than piss. We all became good friends and spent a lot of time together, built a bond, and learned from one another. What was interesting was that he couldn't have cared less about the work I do, what my ideas were or what I wanted to do in the world. He was more interested in me, in the here and the now and just hanging in the moment. It was the perfect relationship. He brought a new soundtrack with him as well, loud music that was more of a body blow than rock and roll. He's a hard living, hard driving hard working kid and full of energy and it wasn't long after I met him that I permanently retired pleated khakis and any thing Tommy Bahama, the apparel expression of middle aged acceptance.
Just last week I sat across the table in conversation with a fantastically bright young woman, all of 21 years of age, who talked about what she wanted to create in her life and where she want it to go. It was a conversation that I thought would last about 2 hours, but we finally called it after 4, and still think we have many more conversations to have. It was perfect. She is so full of intense curiosity about life, the vital questions, the raw uncertainty of choices and a deep sense that the loops for her are all live wired and wide open.
In nearly every exchange I have with people much younger than I am, I find myself rearranging my thinking with a bias towards the present. While I don't wish to return to the days where I knew it all, in the presence of a young person with questions, I am reminded of how critical it is to embrace the subversive, the deviant, the irresponsible and the delinquent. The alternative seems to be calm and safe, and as predictable as a weekly TV schedule.
Relevance isn't decided by age, nor by experience alone, but also by the energy we have and the questions that push us around. When we lose the vital, raw, natural energy we have in our relationships to others, to our curiosities and questions, to our work and service, we can turn callous and rigid. If we are only surrounded by those like us in age and in ideas, we may turn our lives into mono-cultures, like banana plantations of uniformity of thought.
Give up, good friends, and find time to hang with the young and the beautiful. They need our guidance and challenge to their thinking, and help in raising and cultivating their ideas. They have a lot of questions we can answer, and our support can be vital to their future success. What you'll get in return is a fantastic infusion of energy, a sense of life and vitality that will juice your mind, liven your spirits, and provoke your thinking in ways that may surprise you.
Our world is rumbling with the energy of youth. We shouldn't turn our lives into gated communities full of predictability and safety. Instead, let youth grow around you, let them provoke and mentor you with their curiosity and insights. In return, they'll see the impact they can have on adults, on those of us that can sometimes waste too much time on protecting the status quo. They'll see us at partners in this world, and that can only be a good thing for all of us.