How Best To Define “Youth”?

Poem: Youth by Samuel Ullmann. Is my youth gone forever? Youth is a state of mind. Youthful dreams are fresh and exciting. I am a work in progress.

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An older man seen in the camera viewer as a young boy.

Typically, when writing posts in this series, I begin with a quote and then speculate about its meaning. But today I’ll present both of these aspects differently. Having reached that exalted threshold of senior citizenship, I must admit to experiencing many more aches, pains, and physical restrictions than I did even ten years ago. As a kid, I often wondered why older people always seemed cranky and had frowns or scowls on their faces. Now I understand – getting older means a lot of physical discomforts, so what’s to smile about?

This begs the question of whether or not my youth is gone forever. Although I feel the physical manifestations of my age, my inner eye sees a much younger man – so I’m often startled when I pass a mirror. How do we best define this term “youth”? Recently, I listened to the podcast “Aspire To Inspire” hosted by author Gwen Plano who had selected the following poem as their subject of discussion. It is called YOUTH and was written by Samuel Ullman. What follows is an excerpt from that poem:

YOUTH

~ Samuel Ullmann

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind;

it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees;

it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions;        

it is the freshness of the deep springs of life. 

Youth means a temperamental predominance

of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease.  

This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty.

Nobody grows old merely by a number of years.

We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Ullmann’s words struck a chord within me, and as I listened to the discussion by Gwen Plano, John Howell and Jan Sikes on this podcast (linked to the title above), I remembered another post I had written about the human spirit. That post, “Bitter Or Better?” echoed the last few lines quoted above from Ullmann’s poem.

Ullmann asserts that youth is an idea upon which we may choose to base an attitude, and this attitude will allow us to continue to grow and to thrive. Living in this way, according to the poet, is an act of the will rather than the natural dictate of the years lived. Youth, therefore, is not a state of physical immaturity, but it is an essence we all carry within.

The poem speaks of imagination, vigor, freshness, courage, and adventure – ideas that seem to fit best in a person who is young in years. We associate these things with being a young person because we identify them with our own early years in recollections of our childhood or early adulthood. At that earlier stage of early adulthood, our life as independent beings was just dawning. Our dreams were fresh, and our energy was peaking as we envisioned our future with excitement – ready to embark upon this great adventure.

Friends: love, trust, setting off on an adventure.
Friends: love, trust,
setting off on an adventure. (Image: Pixabay)

I felt all of these things as a young man, and I felt something more. I was wrestling with the demons of fear and self-doubt. They threatened to rob me of my dreams and to turn my life adventure into a nightmare. I’m afraid that I expended more energy in that struggle than in embracing the great experience of living. Determined to conquer those demons, I threw myself into my teaching career to prove to myself that I belonged in a classroom and that I could bring value to the lives of my students. I did that as a distraction because the fear was eating me alive. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the energies I invested into teaching were my greatest allies.

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006
Image: Courtesy of Kenneth Tam & Iceberg Publishing (2006)

As a writer in my sixth decade, I discovered that the twin demons weren’t done with me yet. I also realized that while my body was betraying me, I had not lost sight of the youthful me. The wonder of youth is to be found within as the poet eloquently points out. First and foremost, being young is an act of the will. Today, I am a wiser young man borrowing from the wisdom of six decades of experience in living and loving. These experiences and the energy that emanates from my excitement when storytelling, I bring to my writing career. The demons are still with me, but they walk softly because they know… I’m no pushover.

Open book with 3D panorama.
Storytelling – always my passion. (Image: Pixabay)

The most precious gift of youth that is still mine to enjoy and pursue is the thirst for learning and understanding. It has always been the key to personal growth, and I need it. I need it to grow as a loving and empathetic person and to be a more effective storyteller. I cannot afford to relinquish my enthusiasm or turn my spirit into dust because you see, I am a work in progress.

 

 

 

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

27 thoughts on “How Best To Define “Youth”?”

  1. I enjoyed this post tremendously, John. How quickly we age is definitely linked to a mind set. I have met people in their early forties who are really old in their minds and this reflects in their lives and how they behave and live. Concentrating on being a part of, and adding to, the goodness in this world helps you focus outside of yourself and this keeps you happy and young in spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Robbie. You are right on the money. How old or young we feel, how happy, how hopeful – all of these things depend on our mindset. Only one problem: steering our minds in the right direction! Thanks for sharing your insight today!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I, too, am a work in progress, John! I watched a program last night that discussed nanotechnology, neutronics, smart skin that self-repairs, 3-D printable human organs, and more. The upshot was that reversing the aging process is in the foreseeable future, quite possibly within our lifetime. So hang in there. In another 15 years, we might turn 20 again! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The poem is great and what I love even more are the words that follow! You are NOT a pushover, as you say, and while your physical body may slow down over the years you keep your mind fresh with your writing career. You are a great role model!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, dear, I agree – we’re in the same boat. I find writing and blogging keep my mind working all the time. It allows me to be excited and enthusiastic about life. Thanks for sharing you insights!

      Like

  4. A brilliant post, John! This has to be one of my favourites to date. Your last paragraph, more particularly your last sentence, brought a wave of emotion. Powerful and penetrating! Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Your insights are always so eloquently written, candid with grace. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ok, just for that, young lady, you’re hired as my publicist! When can you start? Yesterday? Wonderful! Seriously, Natalie, thank you for your wonderful comments – you made me feel younger! So happy you could visit today.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Too funny, John! 🙂 I always enjoy your posts. I recently wrote a review for Reflections on Amazon, both .com and .ca! It’s a book that will always stay with me. I think that that is the greatest thing we hope for as writers. Thank you for writing it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This was simply wonderful–most inspiring. You made me realize I am not just “being silly” but am young at heart and it’s ok to be enthusiastic and even joyful over things. Like you, teaching keeps me young (at heart, anyway). LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rae, you made by day! (Hey that rhymes!) It’s really important that we keep the wonder and enthusiasm in our lives – it sends an important message to the youngsters who come into contact with us – in the classroom or elsewhere. I appreciate you sharing your insights.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi John. Youth or feeling ‘youthful’ is definitely a state of mind. I feel young when I’m happy and positive and old when I’m down and depressed. The weather has a lot to do with my depression and feeling old as well. Wet and cold weather brings out all my aches and pains and definitely makes me feel old and unmotivated. Very interesting post. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re not alone in those feelings, Kim. I think some people are naturally predisposed to an upbeat attitude. I’m predisposed the other way and I think I inherited that, so I have to make a conscious effort to be positive. To be honest, this type of daily communication with other bloggers and authors helps me a great deal. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I never want to lose my ability to approach life (at least many aspects of it) with child-like wonder and awe.
    I love your last paragraph in this post the best. It sums up exactly how I feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that as writers, we have a leg up on this ongoing approach to life because we are intellectually engaged every day – and the Internet opens the whole world to us. Thanks for sharing your insights today, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the poem and that podcast too! 😀 The bit that hits home most for me is Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. I think this line also rips apart the old saying Beauty is only skin deep… We’re beautiful all the way inwards, not just on the outside! I believe that we’re all capable of being young for as long as we want to be – I just try not to hover over the late teens too much – I did far too many stupid back then! 😛

    Liked by 1 person

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