Youth is Well-spent on the Young

Just a couple thoughts I’m going to throw out there for the day.  Hold on.

There are times when our social media feeds overwhelm us.  It’s a skimming of the best (or in some cases, the worst) of people’s lives.  As someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s, unlike the kids of today, not every moment of my life has been documented with photographic evidence.  In thinking of my first car today, I don’t think a picture of it exists anymore.  Certainly not with me in it, since I doubt I ever had a picture of myself with it.  Back in my day, we didn’t have cameras attached to our bodies all day.

This is why Bigfoot was plausible when I was growing up.  There might be days you saw a baby coyote out in the wilderness and wouldn’t you know it, you didn’t have a camera.  Even if you did, it would have scampered off by the time you dug it out of your pack, took off the lens-cap–gone.  Imagine trying to do that when confronted with an 8ft tall cryptid ape-person!

Today, not only would the kids of today have the picture, but they would be doing a  duck lips selfie with Bigfoot and probably have some kind of dog ears or doe-eyed filter going on as well.

I just don’t think our pictures were all that important to us.  We were left with the feeling of having fun.  We didn’t have the luxury of digital shots either, where we could take a bunch of pictures and choose the best from the lot.  Our snapshots were usually a snap and find-out-later proposition.  When the one-hour-photo returned our pictures, we sorted through them and left them in the big envelope to be lost to history.  We didn’t have a semi-public archive of our lives, accessible from anywhere in the world.

I’ve seen all sorts of cute pictures of people on Facebook, Instagram, etc.  Whether its groups of friends, or the perfect couple pictures, there is a documented phenomenon that researchers have found causes depression.  People compare their imperfect lives with the perfect ones they see online.

But let’s look at it anyone way.  Nobody is causing depression.  It is how a person is responding to that information.  They might just see that happiness or success, that sense of belonging in contrast to an already growing and all-consuming depression.

The perfect pic is something a lot of people try to broadcast.  But there is no such thing as the perfect pic.  There are times when I have seen pictures of myself and nobody would have guessed that at that moment my heart was breaking.  We simply don’t know what is going on based on a picture.

But I do know that I have had plenty of goofy, crazy times, moments of sheer happiness, moments when my true smile comes out.  Not the grin I save for the camera.  Not the smirk I wear when I need to be charming.  Those moments aren’t recorded on film, and if they were, they are long gone now.  But I swear to you they happen. All the time!

But sometimes when the chips are down, it would be nice to see back into a time when those moments were preserved for posterity. For me, though, I’m lucky.  I have my words.  I can go deeper than a photograph and evoke the feeling of the moment in ways that a photograph cannot.  My contrast is doubled when I read something I wrote a long time ago and laugh at how naive I was–or wince at how angry.

When I was in high school, I hated journals.  I used to just write enough filler to get by and get the grade.  Today it is a little more useful.  I got hooked on it when I wrote on LiveJournal.  There was a whole community of writers who shared personal experiences.  It was a good exercise in not holding back when you wrote a story.

Photographer Robert Capa used to say, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”  Granted, he died in the early years of the Vietnam war when he stepped on a land mine while on patrol with a group of soldiers.  There are dangers of getting too close.

My process of writing involves a lot of memory.  Converting those snapshots in my brain, the emotions that cling to them, into something viable for a story.  The bad stuff is easy to write about. But the good…that’s a lot harder, because it’s so close to me.  So personal.  So incongruous to any experience all but a few can relate to.

From moments of blindfolded moose, a round shadow on a lake and cows that look like ants, the view from behind a waterfall, kids that can’t keep their shirts on when the sprinklers come on; all the way back to tracking coyotes on a glacier and getting the worst sunburn of my life, jean jackets and dice hats, the Lion King, first cappuccinos, (and the revelation years later that espresso gives me bad breath).

Somewhere in the middle of all that is a powder blue Ford that could go anywhere and do anything.  Like the Road Warrior, it exists now, only in my memories.

For me, all of these memories are like photos found in a shoebox, but when I write about them, I am there again.  Events pulled from my mind which is always young.  Youth isn’t wasted on the young.  It is invested in the young and paid back in dividends later on we cannot put a value on.  Those goofy snapshots, real or recollected, still make us smile when we need it.

So, I leave you with a link that may or may not expire.  This song has followed me for 20 years.  Thanks, Chrissie Hynde.  And to all of you, may you stay Forever Young.