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Heart of a Teenager

by Arun Kaul
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A few days ago, my wife said to me, “You are a teenager at heart.”

I could not decide whether to feel insulted or complimented.

What do we think when we think of teenagers?

They are careless and irresponsible. They are self-centred, focussed entirely on themselves. They cannot think beyond today. They want everything, now. They will not respect others but want their own opinions to be taken absolutely seriously, whenever they care to give them. They are ignorant about the facts of life and ways of the world, but are convinced that they know everything. They are moody, untidy, and loud. The list can go on and on.

On the other hand, teenagers are enthusiastic about whatever they are engaged in. They are curious. They are ready to accept anything new that they come across. In fact, they expect and want change all the time and would be bored if it did not happen. They are always experimenting with new clothes and new gadgets, with new friends and relationships. Give a teenager a new mobile phone and see. He will immediately get absorbed in it and by the same evening, he will know everything about its features, its applications, its merits and demerits, and everything else that can be known about it. He will have read its manual, talked to his friends about it and looked it up on the internet. Your typical teenager, in short, is a person who lives fully in this world and is ready to take it on with all its capriciousness.

I decided, therefore, that on the whole, I should take that remark about having the heart of a teenager as a compliment.

Youth’ today does not symbolize breaking away from the ties of tradition, it rather stands for breaking down the barriers of several traditions, it symbolizes reaching out, reaching beyond.

This incident set me thinking, however. Youth, per se, is a highly sought after state. Everybody is trying to figure out the secret of eternal youth. There’s a gazillions of rupees worth of industry out there selling the dream of an ever young body to whoever will buy it. But what about a young mind? Apart from general advice to seniors to maintain an interest in something, try to cultivate a hobby, solve the Sunday crossword or Sudoku, not much is on offer. A youthful appearance is ephemeral, but a youthful mentality can live forever if we will it. It’s that mentality – of innocence, of enthusiasm, of creativity – that fosters happiness. And who doesn’t want to be happy!

So, out of all the attributes of a young mind (agility of thought processes, eagerness to learn, high degree of enthusiasm, a relative disregard of dangers leading to fearlessness, readiness to enjoy everything new) which aspect is the most significant? I feel that, without doubt, the top place goes to their ready acceptance of change in this ever changing world; and again, without doubt, all the other qualities of youth enumerated above contribute to this. This aspect makes them absolutely comfortable in most situations they might find themselves in; and this is why they feel confident of being able to master any new gadget or trend in clothing or music and art.

Contrast that with our typical middle-aged manager in a large corporation or a typical housewife who have grown comfortable in their respective places in the world. They will take a sort of a pride in saying, “Oh! I can’t be bothered about these new-fangled ways of working with computers and internet and software and hardware. Give me the solid old system of ledgers and account-books. Let us have the good old attendance register and personal reports. Anyway, I can’t be expected to learn such things at my age. If you want me to make use of computers in my work, give me a computer operator also.”

Now, think coolly. Which would you rather be?

An ignorant, moody, selfish, shallow teenager with a brilliant flair for mastering the technology of today, with a heart full of enthusiasm and hope for tomorrow; or a worldly-wise, mature, well-informed man, a pillar of society but one who is constantly under threat of being replaced by a younger person, at home with the modern ways of communication.

How about a combination of the two?!

A wise, mature, well-informed person, as comfortable with his ledgers as with his computer. A guy on the go, with grey hair and an iPhone in his hand.

Is that possible?
Let us see.

What is the basic difference between a young man and an older one?
It’s age, of course.

Obvious, isn’t it?
No! It is not! It is the attitude.

A young person is young because he takes his youth for granted. He never thinks of his age as he takes on the world. Any change in life, whether social or technological or political is just another challenge and he knows that he must either surmount it or adapt himself to it. An old man, on the other hand, is too set in his ways. He knows what he knows and no one can tell him otherwise. He gives his age as an excuse for burying his head in sand or flaunts his age to end an argument.

Generation after generation the ‘youth’ has been seen as a group that is synonymous with change and revolution that must perhaps be resisted.

Yet, times have changed and so has the connotation of this word.

‘Youth’ today does not symbolise breaking away from the ties of tradition, it rather stands for breaking down the barriers of several traditions, it symbolises reaching out, reaching beyond. ‘Youth’ stands for a departure from prejudices of religion, caste and creed; it stands for knowledge, tolerance, and, perhaps most importantly, freedom. Yet all said and done, is ‘youth’ only about a certain generation? Only about an age bracket? No, it is not so today. It has moved beyond this to become an attitude … A state of mind.

Reflect.

 If the history of the planet is calculated as a 24-hour clock, Homo Sapiens emerged as the dominant species on our world barely a minute ago. After sluggish technical progress during eons of agrarian societies, the industrial revolution began, just a few seconds ago. According to this geologic clock, the Internet emerged less than a micro-second ago.

What is the Secret of Eternal Youth?

The secret of youth is keeping a youthful attitude.
And the key to a youthful attitude is an easy acceptance of change.
Let us now see what change we are talking about.

As time passes, every life undergoes certain changes, some predictable and some unpredictable. But all need to be dealt with. What is more, everybody deals with them eventually, some do it cheerfully and others grudgingly.

You undergo change in your physical appearance. Gain some weight and wrinkles, lose some hair and elasticity of the skin.

Your social position changes. From being somebody’s son or daughter, you change into husbands or wives to parents to grand-parents as you grow older.

Your intellectual condition changes. From being ignorant to well-informed to learned.

Your financial position changes. From being dependants to self-sufficient to providers.

Your attitude changes. From eager to hopeful to satisfied or resigned.

Now you cannot control the change in your physical or chronological aspects, but all the other changes can be controlled if you resist the change in your attitude. With a youthful attitude you can positively enjoy all the other changes.

As long as you don’t get stuck in a routine as you get older or pigeon hole yourself as a certain type of person, you are young. When you try new things, you’ll be surprised to find that activities you were dreading, are actually fun. You can discover the surprising benefits of not acting your age.

Youthful people never lose their curiosity, joy or hope about life. They awaken with new determination on a regular basis with new vigor and a desire to live a good life. In essence, they keep the basic character of a child

If the history of the planet is calculated as a 24-hour clock, Homo Sapiens emerged as the dominant species on our world barely a minute ago. After sluggish technical progress during eons of agrarian societies, the industrial revolution began, just a few seconds ago. According to this geologic clock, the Internet emerged less than a micro-second ago. With so much changing so fast, no wonder so many of us suffer from future shock. No wonder we are so bewildered by the rapid changes all around us that we go into denial and reject all change.

In today’s world, people are in a desperate race with life trying to catch up with the rapidly changing reality. Most of them give up the race after pursuing it for a few years being content to step to the side of the track and join the spectators. Others refuse to acknowledge the race and go into their shells, giving up not only the challenges but also the fun of life. A few others, however, remain in the race right up to the end, enjoying it to the full.

Those with the “heart of a teenager”.

On the whole, I am quite certain that what I received was definitely a compliment, not an insult.

“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

2 comments

Dilip G. Banhatti November 18, 2013 - 11:42 pm

Nice piece, Arun!

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gautam saha November 21, 2013 - 5:30 pm

a very nice and original article….Arun, in case you do not remember me, I was in chem. engg., having joined IIT in the same batch as you….I am still trying to recover from the IIT syndrome and have partially recovered my composure……. LOL :))

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