I'm not impressed by remarkable youth

Monday, June 26, 2017

People are always so impressed when young people accomplish great things.

If you do something cool and you happen to be a kid, the attention isn’t focused on whatever cool thing you've done, but on the fact that you're a kid. You are a writer / musician /s martie at just 16!

On the surface, this isn't such a bad thing: we're recognising awesome young people. But if you think about it more deeply, there are a few problems with fetishizing young people’s achievements. By being surprised at the awesomeness of one particular young person, in a way, we’re assuming that most other young people are unimpressive. That one kid might be an exception, but young people generally? Well, they're lazy and entitled, right? I don't think this is the case.

Personally, I'm impressed by remarkable whoever. I don't think there's excellent young people and excellent old people – there are just people. So, in order to avoid further asking, here are some reasons why I'm not impressed by remarkable youth.

1. Age should not our primary defining characteristic. Human beings are incredibly complex, and we generally see ourselves that way - different to everybody else… unique. But obviously we can't see everybody like this (brain limitations, or something - that old 150 people theory), so we have to start categorising: women, teenagers, Twilight fans. We expect things of people at certain ages, as dictated by our society’s teachings, our upbringing, and what we’ve come to expect from previous generations, and of course this varies between towns, cities and countries. Trying to work out what you want to do with your life in your early twenties is a pretty standard ‘thing’ in middle class Australia, but in other places, 21 might be an age where people are already becoming parents. Although age is sometimes relevant, often it really is not.

2. Don’t always compare yourself to people who are the same age as you. Everyone has a different journey, and everyone has different expectations for their life, depending on their family, culture, attitudes and beliefs. There are so many different levels on which we mature as we age. Being inspired by other young people accomplishing the things you might dream of doing is awesome, but just because they've achieved something by a certain age doesn't mean you're a failure if you haven’t, too. A successful young person doesn't just 'make it' – there’s still plenty of stuff they're working out, just like you. There is no leveling up in real life, fortunately or unfortunately. You're on your own path, and your version of being 18, 27, or 103 is going to be different from everyone else's.

3. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you're not capable of great things. I refuse to believe that young people who do amazing things are the exception, and that the rest of us are lazy and useless. I believe media coverage is too often focused on out-of-control youth, which skews people's perceptions of what it’s like to be young. You don’t magically transform from an obnoxious little kid into a capable adult: you are yourself the whole time, and I think your capacity for excellence is proportionate to how much faith you have in yourself, and often how much faith you have in yourself is as a result of how much faith other people have had in you. Anyone who believes in you, whether they’re your parents, teachers, friends or mentors, is invaluable.

Originally published on Birdee Mag.
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