Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Youth by Alayna-Renee Vilmont

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the 
worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

Y is for Youth 
Alayna-Renee Vilmont

When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too—leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back.

Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you've been.”---
Margaret Atwood

They say that youth is wasted on the young.  Specifically, it is Oscar Wilde who said that, but across the centuries, it has become attributed to the universal they--- they meaning people who undoubtedly know more than you do.

It isn’t until you are no longer young that you begin to believe in the wisdom of the universal they, those who have sought the road less traveled long before you and arrived scarred, bruised, but relatively unscathed. It is at that certain point in your journey that you find yourself crying into your pillow for the yesterdays that can never be revisited, and for the tomorrows that may never happen.

They say to live in the present moment, as much and as often as you possibly can. The past does not matter and the future is not under your control. They say a lot of things, all designed to keep you peaceful and happy and not weighed down by the anxiety of the world, most of which is tantamount to a desperate search for denial.

They tell me I am still young, still beautiful and high-spirited enough that I must know I have my whole life ahead of me. This leads me to conclude that they are bad at math, in addition to being trite and possibly insincere. Half a lifetime can never be a whole lifetime, no matter how much energy you devote to the present moment.

They say youth is wasted on the young, but they are merely repeating the sad lament of an adventurer who died at the age of 46. There is never enough time, and Oscar Wilde was of course right. So much of it is wasted that “living in the present” is rarely anyone’s natural state of being.

I know this, because when I open my eyes every morning, it is not the present that haunts or torments or delights me. Inevitably, a memory from the past that comes flooding back. There’s that time I woke up in a good friend’s bed on New Year’s Day, snuggled under a comforter with a broken heart and three large dogs. There’s the morning when I was 15 and it was snowing outside my window, and darkness was broken by the sound of the radio lighting up, playing “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” as a preamble to the school cancellations and delays.  There’s that day that started with the boy I had loved for so long across such a distance snuggled beside me, in a strange room, a strange city, intoxicated by a sense of disbelief that a new life could begin so easily. There’s that time I woke up dizzy and hung over and not quite sure where I was, or how I arrived, or why I had the type of friend who would let me take a ride to nowhere with two strange men who were good at samba dancing. There’s the mornings where the pitter-patter of the rainfall stir the heart, and I think of love and loss and adventure, and I am so utterly thankful to be free and alive and life anything but expected. There’s that day that started with the tears that accompany goodbyes before the suitcases were even packed, and freely flowed every 20 minutes, at the slightest provocation. There’s the time I traveled a million miles to meet someone I’d known a lifetime, and the chaotic journey ended with endless hours of tears and conversation and connection and watching the sunrise half-coherently in one another’s arms. There’s that day everything changed and I knew I would never be the same, but faced with the choice to simply remain motionless and wish myself out of existence or to start again, only one was really an option.

I never know, really, what I will see when I open my eyes. I do know it is never the present, because when the present is truly special, I am again a five year-old child reluctant to close her eyes. When it is not, sleep is a refuge, the sort of place where one can dream without consequence or bitterness. It is never a world put on hold too early by illness and loss and difficulties presented to one still too young to cope without falling to pieces, yet old enough to know better. When I open my eyes in the morning, I am a different version of myself. There is a song in my head, a memory in my heart. For a moment or two, I am trapped in every relevant experience in my life I would not trade for the world. Sometimes, it is the smallest detail, but it is unbearably poignant.

Youth is always wasted on the young because there is also a sentiment of invincibility that accompanies the search for experience. By thirty, you’ve already learned to measure life in how many good years you have left. You no longer feel shocked into silence by the news someone your age has died. You no longer feel invincible, and wonder how you ever could have been so oblivious. After all, death has no age restriction. You might depart the world at 8, 48, or 88. The very young and healthy and relatively well-adjusted never consider this, not seriously. There are tragedies, of course, but tragedies are the rarities which happen to others. A year is a lifetime, not 364 of a limited supply of days. By your third decade, you start to wonder if you will have enough time, after all. You wonder if you have been loved, if you will be remembered. You wake up blissfully stuck in a memory, rather than excited for the day ahead, the endless array of possibilities waiting to be explored.

I do not always recognize the face that stares back at me. More and more, it is beginning to remind me of my mother’s face, although we look little alike. It is just slightly hard around the edges, although wrinkles and the more obvious vestiges of time have yet to show. It is not as small, not as delicate, not as hopeful. It is a face that has seen and learned and felt and has stories to tell, but one that is still vain enough and self-centered enough to want to be found beautiful, alluring. It is a face that is neither young nor old, but stuck in the middle of time. It represents neither the past nor the future, and is never quite certain what to be.

It is just an ordinary face, one that is meant to live in the present, but instead vacillates between the past and the future a hundred times a day. It does not know how to simply be. It has not learned the art of acceptance. It has not yet processed the wisdom taught by experience. It looks back on experience for its own sake, and looks forward to experience because without hope and enthusiasm, there is little left.

An overly precocious and emotional child who grew into an angst-ridden teenager and subsequently, a vivacious 20-something with a wild streak the length of Route 66, I don’t think it occurred to me that one day, I would have to learn to be a middle-aged woman. In my mind, I am still 18, and sitting on the couch in a college dive bar willing to give vodka cranberries to a girl who wouldn’t resemble legal age for another decade. There is a long-haired boy with a stud in his nose sharing my couch, and I sit comfortably between his legs. We dream together, my head resting on his chest, watching the world go by. We talk endlessly about poetry and creativity and dreams and adventures, and how it is so sad the way some people say these are the best days of our lives. We melt into one another, fusing in the way only the young and vulnerable know how to connect without inhibition, listening to strains of Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails and bands with one word, catchy names full of frustration and feeling. We don’t always understand the unintelligible, but we can share the sentiment. Later on in life, the lyrics will come to mean something, but we do not know that. We quietly watch the people around us; friends playing pool, a girl passed in the quad in a heavy make out session with a guy who looks as if he’s wearing pajamas, an introverted type with a book in one hand and a beer in another, studiously avoiding a roommate. It is never about the sex, the recreational drugs everyone pretends not to see, the slight euphoric buzz that comes from weak drinks and an untainted liver. It is never even about the music that you will remember so fondly a decade later, or the conversations you’ve never forgotten, even though you don’t know why. It is about the connection, the ease in which you and another person become the same, although you may be completely different.

It is about knowing that never, ever, will you be thirty. And if you are, you’ll have figured everything out. You will have lived lifetime after lifetime in that intervening space. You will have traded in mellowed-out connections for an attractive, accomplished spouse, and over-used retro furniture for the beautiful home or condo or penthouse that’s always in the back of your mind. You’ll know who you are, and spend less time wondering where you’re going, because you will have already been.

It is about having no clue that as you pass thirty and head bravely towards the next milestone, and the next, you and your new friends will trade stories about the old days. You will dance and laugh and feel a little melancholy when that song that your seventeen year-old self loved comes on, and you will feel slightly strange that it is on the “classic hits” station or “90’s flashback weekend”. It is about not knowing that you will see your parents grow older, your dreams turn into other unexpected realities, and you will still have no idea where you are headed regardless of where you have been. Nothing will be as you imagined, but you will still be young enough and courageous enough to begin imagining all over again.

It is about not knowing that one day, the face that stares back at you from your mirror will be a stranger’s face. It will inevitably become an adult’s face, your mother or your father’s face, and you will wonder at the illusion. It is about not knowing that youth will always be wasted on the young, because there is this treasured and brief period of life where there’s no need for mantras such as “Live in the present moment” and “Avoid fear, enjoy the now”.

It is about not knowing there is always an end to every story, but at the beginning, you can’t imagine how it will turn out. You’re merely insatiably curious to discover the journey. Halfway through, you wish you could start back at the beginning and recapture every detail you failed to appreciate along the way, because now you know better. You know there is still another half to go, but you’re suddenly terrified at how quickly the paragraphs fly by.

After all, everyone is reading a different story, but the final page is always the same.


Alayna-Renee Vilmont is a freelance writer, blogger, performer, and modern-day Renaissance woman currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Her first book, “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”, is a poetic anthology based around the many facets of human relationships and experiences. Alayna is also the voice behind Jaded Elegance: The Uninhibited Adventures Of A Chic Web Geek, which has been entertaining readers since 2000. She maintains an active presence on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and almost every other form of social media out there. Alayna has previously appeared on this site, winning last year’s flash fiction contest. If you’d like to follow the adventures of this modern-day wayward muse, please stop by and visit at www.jadedelegance.net


  1. This brought back a few memories of my own youth. Some good, some not so good. You have eloquently reminded us all of our mortality, a state of condition which I have thought about frequently as I approach retirement age. I hope your remaining years will be successful and happy, and productive. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This reminds of many things, some that never happened to me :-) I often suffer from (enjoy?) a similar delusion of being younger than I am. I walk around thinking I am only 24, then I try to bend over or walk past a mirror.
    I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing.


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