If there’s one thing that I love about The Internet, it’s how everyone shames Leonardo DiCaprio, 48, for refusing to date women over 25 years old. Sure, if it’s a legal and consenting relationship, who am I to judge them? However, you must admit that it’s icky how he refuses to date anyone older than 25, as if he has a peculiar fixation on youth. Unfortunately, this obsession with youthfulness is not restricted to Mr. DiCaprio’s notorious dating history, but it has also infected our current societies ideologies and perspectives.
We romanticize youthfulness, packaging it with attractive features such as “endless possibilities,” “innocence,” and “vitality,” that ultimately transform it into a product to peddle to the masses in the form of anti-aging creams or youth-rejuvenating-celery smoothies. Thus, youth, a period typically lasting from our late teens to late twenties, harvests youthfulness, which is limited and must be preserved because, somehow, we’ve managed to correlate “old age” to a period of stagnation, where, by 50 years old, we’ve relinquished the chance and failed to attain recognizable and respective achievements in life.
Hence, my problem with our obsession with youth, besides the obvious exploitive campaigning, is its relationship to success. We’re not only fixated on the idea of youth but also achieving notable levels of success during our youth. From the annual Forbes under 30 to 14 year old geniuses-turned-college-freshmen, we have sunken into a mindset where youth is our prime, and if we don’t achieve success during our prime, then we have missed our one critical chance to “peak” in life.
You might think that I’m writing this article out of jealousy of those more successful than me, but rather I find it depressing and disheartening to think that this is the prime time of our lives. I’m currently a junior, with a little more than a year left in college, and sometimes I feel anchored with this heavy regret that I didn’t accomplish anything noteworthy during my time here. I’m currently 21, in the earlier part of my youth, and I feel compelled to do something so that when I’m 30, with no remaining youthfulness, I won’t have any regrets.
However, as precious as youth is, I would argue that there is much more value in our time beyond youth. With maturity comes time and time brings experience. According to researchers of the National Bureau of Economic Research, individuals can experience major creative breakthroughs in their late 30s. Van Gogh didn’t start painting until his 30s, Harrison Ford didn’t receive his big break as Han Solo until he was 35, and Robert Frost composed many of his celebrated works in his 50s. According to psychologists, our crystallized intelligence (general knowledge), semantic knowledge, and emotional reasoning significantly improve with time, which are all vital components involved with attaining success in any field.
Youth should be a time of entering wrong numbers on our calculators and stuttering during group presentations. It should be a time of uncertainty, self-doubt, and prospective anxiety. In non-Western cultures, success is more commonly associated with the elderly. Particularly in East Asian countries, youth is attributed to immaturity, self-discovery, and experimentation, whereas old age is associated with wisdom and filial piety. Although, “peaking” in one’s youth is possible, and should certainly be celebrated, this narrow time frame is unlikely our only window of opportunity, and it shouldn’t be.
It’s normal to question yourself, your abilities, and your future, but it’s unrealistic to assume that this is the best it gets. I, for one, refuse to acknowledge that my capabilities are limited to my time of youth. The unlimited opportunities available during our youth will still exist even as we age through the decades to come, so long as we persevere and maintain the courage to pursue them. Youth is not a condition for any opportunity.
Except if I want to be Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriend.
Linda is a Trinity junior. Her column runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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