By the time I entered university at twenty, I had been falling in and out of love with girls for as long as I could remember. Most often, it was friends or classmates or scene partners but even a stranger’s glance in a passing bus window could haunt me for months.
In practice, my love always went unrequited. I suspect now that had I made more of an effort this wouldn’t have always been the case. I suspect also, like a lot of other poet-philosophers as young men, the idea of love was, for me, better than its embodiment.
In my first year of university, romantically-speaking, things turned around. In the first semester, I managed to tell one girl, while breaking up with her, that I might have loved her. By the end of the second semester, I was in love with someone who loved me back almost as feverishly as I loved her.
Unfortunately — or perhaps fortunately — she and a friend had already committed to go to Europe that upcoming summer. As the end of the semester approached, it also dawned on me that I would need to return to my father’s home in Ottawa. I would also need to go back to a job doing numeric data entry for an insurance company.
It was a perfect romantic storm. First, we fell in love, then we realized we would be apart, then we decided we’d stay together, and then we tried to spend every possible minute together before she returned to her hometown and I to my own personal hell.
It was somewhere around this time that my true love and soul mate told me that her parents had suggested that she shouldn’t take things too seriously because, after all, we were so young.
I was outraged. Too young! I was no fucking kid! Not only had I finished a year of university, I had taken a year off before university and had travelled in Europe for two and a half months. Sure, I wasn’t old, but I sure as hell wasn’t young. I was turning twenty-one in a matter of months! Too young! I brooded passionately about the slight for weeks.
It has only really occurred to me in the past few months that my girlfriend’s parents were right and I was wrong. We were young. Very young. When I see people the age I was, they are — and we were — clearly babes playing at being grown-up.
Here’s the curious thing: I feel much younger now than I did then. When I was sixteen, it felt more like forty-five. Fortunately, somewhere along the line, I started feeling younger. My best explanation for this is that at some point, thanks to some effort and luck, I stopped trying to be “grown-up” — that is, who I thought I should be — and started trying to be who I wanted to be.
I know now that ten or twenty years in the future, I will see people in their mid-thirties and think, wow, they look so young. With a bit of luck and effort, I also know I will feel younger than ever.
So, how old did you feel when you were a teenager and do you feel older or younger than that now?
Oh!? And what happened to me and the girlfriend? Well that, as the narrator for Hammy Hamster always says, is another story. 🙂