What is folly? Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “stupidity or lack of understanding”, it is a reality of life that mistakes made in youth can last a lifetime.
Last week, two men in their 20s stood trial for making appallingly bad decisions; a law student who berated gardaí before a house party; and a farmer convicted of sexual assault at his ‘first’ disco in Dublin.
Youth is no excuse for hurting another. A split-second decision or a misjudgment can have catastrophic consequences for the lives of others, as in the case of the sexual assault victim who told the court that she no longer felt safe on her own. For some, it is their catalog of choices that drives their current lives. For others, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have unfortunate consequences.
But youth is a hopeful time. We hope we are destined for greatness. We’ve all heard the stories of an entrepreneur born into poverty who gritted his teeth and rushed to make a fortune.
Roman Abramovich, Oprah Winfrey, and George Soros all transcended humble beginnings to join the ranks of the immensely wealthy and successful. They are the exception rather than the rule, and the notion of a helpless, impoverished underbelly was unacceptable even in Dickens’ day.
Not everyone is equipped with the emotional capital for a long-term horizon. Poverty and disadvantage in early adulthood are passed on from one generation to the next, as are privileges and entitlements.
Child poverty affects all areas of a child’s life, from health behaviors, illness and disability to academic performance, antisocial behavior and happiness. And conditions for children living in poverty are worsening as many families cannot afford meat, the Children’s Rights Alliance said last week.
Combined with a housing shortage and a psychiatric service for crippled children and young people, the trials of a young person are more difficult for many in Ireland today.
We have to make some mistakes in order to learn. Most of these are harmless steps on the road to adulthood. Kissing the wrong boy or failing a college assignment because you went to too many college nights. Spend the money for the summer job on an electric scooter. Having to start something over again because you were careless.
Sanity came to me slowly in my 20s. I realized that the late-night hours I spent chatting up randoms and spinning Killers songs at house parties were just time I’d stolen from myself. Hours I could have improved with yoga or some study.
At some point I realized that the secrets strangers share are never as exciting as a real conversation with a real friend. Carving through the maze of youthful exploration to find oneself is an ongoing journey, the blade sharpening with each blow.
The path from the 20th to the 30th year of life, from student to mother, is intensive. Of course, I’m far from being an authority on coming of age. At 33, I’m aware that I might live this life twice.
Decades of mistakes, insights and moments I should have known better are in the post. I didn’t really give up the martinis and hedonistic ways until my daughter showed up when I was 28. She taught me manners. I felt an obligation to work hard and be a good person for her sake. That was the point where I really grew up.
I sipped on my first Bacardi Breezer during the Celtic Tiger’s last great march. There was work and a home for everyone. We were assured that a degree would lead to a home, a job and a decent standard of living. For those who open another can of beans for the kids meal tonight, that promise has been broken.
But people can do amazing things at any age. wrote Mary Shelley Frankenstein at 18. Joan of Arc rode into battle at 17. Journalist Nellie Bly uncovered a mental asylum at 23 after committing herself.
Teens and young people today are less prepared for adulthood than previous generations, infantilized by mom handing them a chicken curry before washing their jeans.
Yet this is the cohort facing the greatest environmental devastation in human history. This hot summer will probably be the coolest summer in the rest of our lives – because future ones are expected to get hotter and hotter.
Parents, employers and grandparents should encourage resourcefulness, hard work and creative thinking. As younger people step into policy-making roles and become the farmers, doctors, and engineers of the future, they will be forced to make wiser decisions to avoid extinction.
If they manage to save humanity, maybe they have the right to call us spoiled.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/for-all-their-folly-young-people-will-be-key-to-saving-planet-earth-41845290.html For all their folly, young people will hold the key to saving planet earth