Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oh, To Be Young Again

Reading the biographical information on Sigmund Freud and CS Lewis is Nicholi’s The Question of God, (and less literarily, driving a friend's 16 year old to orchestra practice) I was reminded of how different things look from the perspective of age. Time travel or masquerading as a younger person are both common literary devices, and on a more prosaic level, many people say “If only I knew then what I know now,” or “If I had to do over again…” The fantasy is apparently quite natural.

Those of us with vivid imaginations, especially those with a storytelling bent, have the problem of fantasising too well. Normal people imagine only the fun parts of being 15 again – putting every penny you can find on the Mets to win it all in 1969 at 100-1 odds; dating that girl you now know in retrospect would sleep with anyone, even you; saving the world from disaster with your prescience. Those of us with darker imaginations go too quickly to what it would really be like. To be fifteen with a fifty-five-year-old’s mind – who could you talk to? Who would be your friend? The people you spent most of your waking hours with would be unimaginably boring and irritating. Those elders with whom you would have a more natural rapport would never perceive that – they would be unable to see beyond the body, even if they thought you a particularly fine and mature specimen of teenagehood. Those in-between would be most infuriating of all: they would condescend as if they were doing you some honor to even treat with one so young, yet they would be callow to your eyes. It would be hellish.

Fortunately, being over-realistic can provide escape hatches as well. I did think of a place, a profession, a life that could be lived, that might deliver you from that misery. Think about it. You may come up with a better idea than mine.

1 comment:

OBloodyHell said...

I think you would find it difficult with people you first meet, and certainly with some people always, but no, people can recognize and respect maturity, even, or especially, precociousness. It's not even as unusual as you appear to suspect, given that there's a specific word for it, right there.

Think about it -- how many movies and TV shows feature a precocious child (often with an immature parent, for comic effect)?

If such did not have appeal, would they be so common?

And maturity gives you something of particular benefit -- the mature realization that, only 3 or 6 years away is full adulthood -- armed with all that special knowledge that you've got.

So, no, I disagree with you utterly about the problems you speak of.

And I think I can speak from some personal experience -- I always had an easier time talking to people younger and older than I was, because I was always relatively mature for my age. There are downsides to it, yes, but there are upsides, too.