By Polly Wenlock
People are quick to dismiss the “live fast, die young” ideology as a whimsical and humorous naivety, but I’m here to defend it. It is our collective cultural understanding that the best time of your life is when you are a young adult. We can perceive this in widespread media (news, literature, television, socials) representation. Suppose we label this phase as being roughly 17-26 years of age; this phase is the mathematical peak of our lifetimes in terms of general physical and mental wellbeing, enjoyment, beauty, opportunity, and friendship. The rest of our lives (if we understand a human lifetime as being a right-skewed uniform graph wherein our enjoyment is the Y-axis and our age is the X) following mathematical probability the trend should slowly taper into an exponentially decreasing average enjoyability till our eventual death. This is not to say that “mathematically speaking” our later lives will be unbearable sinks of hell, but that never again will we be able to enjoy life quite to the extent we have in our young adulthood. Absolutely attempts have been made at directly recreating this peak, but we recognize these as mid-life crises, not midlife revivals. The fact they are described as “crises” points to the general recognition that these fruitless or unhinged attempts are the consequences of coping, perhaps with the loss of youth or perhaps a youth whose beauties were squandered.
So why do we care so much about conserving our bodies for the future if it is our bodies right now that are actually of best use? Almost every painful step students at UCLA endure seems to be a push for a brighter tomorrow, yet every voice from the futurized perspective cautions the younger generation that “the best years are now”. We are encouraged to work mind-numbingly average jobs in a desperate reach for the corporate ladder and once we’re there we find ourselves applying makeup, surgery, and diet regimes, the newest in clothes and cars in an attempt to conceal our aging bodies, and bolster our faded spirits. We must realize we cannot have corporate success, a youthful mindset, and physical ability at once. Sadly, while high-level corporate jobs are frequently waitlisted for the “maturer” ages (another objectionable fact) our bodies and minds will not wait for us. If we aren’t lucky enough to make it rich quick in the influencer/Tiktoker sphere, one day we’ll wake up to an epiphany that all our joyless labor in the name of bureaucratic approval did was alienate us from our world, our bodies, and ourselves. Should this trend continue, we —like every generation before us— will counter-intuitively continue to delay gratification in pursuit of financial or corporate resources only to fritter those resources in search of something we never learned to enjoy. Human life already extends way beyond its natural constraints due to modern medicine, but despite all this added time, we still haven’t discovered a revival of the joys of our youth, so live like you’re young, while you’re young.
No, I’m not saying you MUST go out and engage in bloated consumerist culture, eat, dress and do as much as possible, or else *shock, horror* you’ve wasted your youth. My stance is simply to tolerate a little less, enjoy a little more. Rid yourself of the paranoid impulse to restrict yourself in every moment, your beauty should not rely on pain, nor should your self/social-worth or later your employability. There is no morally legitimate reason you should have to suffer to be deserving of the respect of your elders, your peers, or even yourself.
In fact, if we are to examine those who are considered the most successful in society, often their stories involve very very little struggling and a whole lot of indulgence, just look to the high society old money clans evolving into the front-facing media of the modern age like the Hiltons and the Kardashians. We shouldn’t have to feel guilt for a moment of joy under capitalism just because society has painted our sex, eating, spending, and fancifulness as sin. We already carry the burden of being the generation who actively demands and works toward the rectification of the errors of the past. With global overpopulation, climate change, and the constant threat of war under unstable dictators being acknowledged and valued as real issues in our modern perspective, it has seemingly become our generation’s task to present a model of humanity that is constantly conscious of their own actions, calculated for the bettering and improving ours and our childrens’ collective potential to survive.
Absolutely these factors must be considered and consulted but to trade in our previous generation’s model of a human that lives entirely in carefree expenditure for the modern dream of an entirely unrealistically socially conscious new build is in disregard of our own human wellbeing and needs. I firmly believe that a hybrid model of values including both the well-being of the self and the wellbeing of the collective is in order. The hot new model is a balanced and grounded existence in which it is possible to live wholly conscious of the social (political, environmental, capital) consequences of our actions. If we restrict ourselves for the “collective” then we are guaranteed to burn out before we are able to make any real social change to/for said collective. In an ideal culture wherein we have perfectly balanced ourselves, the graphed trend of human enjoyment is a flat line. A line of balance is reflective of the mental balance between the humanistic self and altruistic society.
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