Anyway, I'll just jump right in and say - stay gold.
That's a line from one of my all-time favourite books: The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. "Stay gold, Ponyboy."
Now, I'm sure that can be interpreted in many different ways. But for me, I always considered it to mean 'stay young'. 'Stay gold'. 'Keep the wonder and awe alive in your life, and don't let it die'.
I wanted to focus on the 'stay young' interpretation of that. Let me go on a (possibly lengthy) anecdote ramble here. Just bear with me. There is a point.
|Sorry for the dramatic expression, but I haven't had many|
photos taken since I turned 18. This is one of the few.
I'm 18 now. So technically, a legal adult.
I haven't had a bad childhood, per se, but it hasn't really been a normal childhood either. My mother ended up too ill to drive me and my brother to events or clubs or anything of the sort early on - I think I was about twelve.
You have to understand that we live in an isolated area, so we had no friends in our neighbourhood. When we stopped going to our homeschooler group, and stopped going to our swordfighting group more than once every few weeks, and stopped going to our writing co-op... we didn't have social interaction with anyone but each other very often. There were the occasional meet-ups with friends from further away, but that was it.
My brother and I stopped getting along shortly after my father lost his job. So that was around when I was nine and he was eight. So we didn't really interact with each other much either, without it ending up in a fight. Our interests drastically changed - I wanted to play games that required imagination, and he wanted a BB gun to shoot things with. Polar opposites as far as interests went.
So we were more or less on our own without friends for most of our childhood. We didn't get out much. Our first and last vacation was in 2003; the first time we've had a vacation since then was in 2013, which I paid for with my own money, every bit of it saved up over the course of a year. We didn't go to amusement parks, or fairs, or even many parties after we were in our preteens.
Now, this wasn't our fault, and it wasn't our mother's fault. We just didn't have money for outings after my father lost his job, and then my mother fell ill and couldn't physically drive us even places near here. And she was far too protective to let us go anywhere with someone else, such as a friend's parents.
But we didn't have a normal childhood. We didn't get to go on playdates much with friends, or go to parties with them for their birthdays, or go to fairs and amusement parks. We spent most of our time doing school, or keeping to ourselves.
When I got older - about 14 - I couldn't really have a normal teenagehood either. For one, I went into college classes (real ones; not high school classes in college, I was literally enrolled in college) when I was 15. I still had two grades of high school to finish as well (I skipped twelfth grade). On top of that, my mother needed my help, and she needed emotional support. Badly.
Long story short - she is anorexic, due to feeling worthless and other issues that I don't feel it is okay to disclose here. When her cat died, it felt - to her - like she had lost a child. She loved that cat so, so much.
My father wasn't there for her. Neither was my brother. She has no friends nearby. So I had to set aside my own sadness at losing a pet, and be her shoulder to cry on. I never let her see me cry, because it would make her feel guilty, and she would stop leaning on me. And that would lead to disaster.
When I was about 16, I found out the truth of just how bad her anorexia was. She weighed 88 pounds. I didn't even weigh that little when I was ten years old. She is an adult.
So my being her emotional support doubled, and I took it upon myself to make sure she was always eating. I stole the scale from her bathroom and buried it away where she couldn't find it. I made sure she felt appreciated whenever possible, and I listened to her vent, and let her cry on my shoulder.
Since then, I have been her sounding board and support. When she needs to rant to someone about life, she comes to me. We don't have money for her to go to a therapist - so I've more or less taken on that role.
|Ignore the photos, they're just dividers to let you know|
when my personal story ends and the blog starts
And what I'm trying to say is... I grew up. Way too fast. I never had a normal childhood, and for now, I have no chance to have one at all. And God knows how much that hurts me sometimes.
Because I just want to be able to go back to the years when I was supposed to be carefree. And take advantage of those years. Because when you reach a certain point in life, you'll never get that feeling back.
Someday, when and if I ever move out, I'm going to try and stay young. I'm going to try and shake off all the social rules I've had drilled into me, and just live. If I want to dance in the rain, I'm going to. If I want to run down the streets laughing and trying to avoid running into people, I will. If I want to act like a child while I'm in my twenties, I'm going to. If I want to hang out with friends and have squirt gun fights, I will. If I want to host a party where everyone plays dress-up, I will. If I want to drop everything and go on a road trip, I will.
Because I never really got to. I was always very closely watched, and I never got to experience anything outside of my house. And I want to make up for all the lost time of my teenage years, where I spent all my energy doing homework and taking care of my mother and making sure my household didn't fall to pieces.
What I'm trying to say is... don't be in such a rush to grow up.
In fact, don't ever grow up. Don't stop playing around or goofing off or seeing wonder in things just because society tells you that you should.
Don't let work and school take you away from having fun. And I don't mean harmful things, like drugs and alcohol. That isn't fun or staying young. That's being foolish.
I'm saying just... don't let work and school consume all your time. You have one life on this one world. (I believe that there is another life after this one, but that's my belief.) Don't waste it on school and work.
People like to tell you, "Don't waste your life away, do something with your life!" when they catch you hanging out with friends or going on walks in the woods or watching a good film.
But it's the other way around, really.
There is a balance. Don't spend all your time running wild, but don't spend it all running yourself ragged with jobs and homework.
And if you're young... don't be in such a hurry to grow up. Don't lose the spark of imagination and awe you have as a kid.
You know how you see something new, and it takes your breath away? Something spectacular? Look here...
Looking at those photos of the trip I took for my birthday, which would you say I was more in awe over?
Most people would probably say the glacier lake and the mountains in the second photograph.
But I was just as awed over that as I was the beauty of the flowers and the brick wall. Maybe not as awed, but still very much in wonder over both.
I still have that spark because, well... I never got to see these sorts of things growing up. It's all new to me. But even if this stuff was old to me... I don't want to lose the child-like way my eyes light up and a grin graces my face when I see the smallest of things, from a dragonfly to a meadow of dandelions.
A lot of people lose that because they want to grow up. They want to get cars, and go to 'grown-up' parties, and be old enough to drink and smoke. Or there are people who just begrudgingly grow out of enjoying the little things because 'that's the way it is'.
It shouldn't be that way.
Just don't grow up completely. When Johnny told Ponyboy to 'stay gold' in The Outsiders, he was telling Ponyboy not to grow up and become what the others around them were. Bitter, world-weary, angry, and solemn young men who had to grow up too fast.
He wanted Ponyboy to continue to gaze at sunsets and ponder the world. He wanted Ponyboy to keep reading poetry, and writing stories, and not to grow into the steel-tough man that their friends had become.
And that's what I'm trying to say. Don't lose all of the innocence and wonder of being young. Don't stop enjoying the little things.
Because when you grow up, whether you did it on purpose or were forced to... things like that slip your mind. It's like everything resets itself into dull shades, professional shades, and life loses the bright, vivid colours that sparkled when you were a kid and everything was new.
You become a cynic, sometimes. I have. No fifteen-year-old should fall into the habit of seeing life as 'being born, going to school, going to college, working your head off, getting old, dying'. I did, and I do, and it's not right. No kid, no person ever, should end up having such a cynical view of life.
When I say to stay young - to stay gold - I mean don't let the joy, the wonder, the awe, the newness, the feeling of being carefree when you're a child fade away. Don't let the monotony of work and school drown you.
Take some time off. Do something fun.
Run through a meadow of wildflowers, go swimming in a river, climb a mountain, travel to another country, tease your friends, blast music at full volume while driving aimlessly down backroads, curl up in a blanket fort with all the junk food you want and watch a cheesy rom-com or a Disney film. Run and sing and dance and laugh and play.
The world is really so beautiful. Yeah, life's difficult sometimes. But beauty of the natural world can be created from fires, earthquakes, floods, blizzards...
Maybe when life is difficult, it's just a way of making you beautiful too.
You are alive, and the sun rises every morning. There are mountains to climb and rivers to cross and hilarious films to see - and so much more to explore and wonder over.
Don't let growing up rob you of those things. Don't be in such a hurry to grow up. Don't ever grow up completely. Just stay gold.