Is college and your early 20s the best time of your life?
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 22:10
When is the best time of life? Over the past few months I had been worrying that for me that time was now. After all, the other day I woke up at noon on a weekday and ate free “plum sauce pork” for breakfast. Outside of college, that will never happen again.
People below a certain age sometimes lie and say they’re older. In the words of Michael Cera from the high school movie “Superbad”: “This guy’s either going to think, ‘Here’s another kid with a fake ID’ or ‘Here’s McLovin, the 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor.’” At the same time, people above a certain age sometimes lie and say they’re younger. See the “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode where 43-year-old Robert pretends he’s 35 so he can date a college girl: “She’d put on the radio and tune into whatever station with that really jammin’ music! Actually, it was a little loud for me.”
At what age do people always say they are whatever age they actually are? I would say it’s around the age I am now, age 21. There is something to be said for that.
Especially being in my senior year of college, I am about to take the first leap soon into what is so often called “the rest of your life.” I get a full night’s sleep often, even on weekdays, which my “real world” internships the past two summers clearly indicate will not be a regular occurrence in the future. My financial worries are relatively minimal, as they surely will worsen in the years to come when I enter the terrible job market and have to pay rent with no parental assistance. Plus, my height is currently at its max and I don’t yet have wrinkles or greying hair.
Best of all, I am surrounded by people my own age who are still optimistic, idealistic and fun, unlike many people above a certain age who seem dejected and have lost that youthful vigor. Youth is a state of mind, and I notice people my age mostly have conversations about the present or the future. Having spent the past two summers largely alongside employees in their 50s and 60s, I realized how many conversations they have were about the past. I am not even sure that they recognized this phenomenon themselves.
All of those above positive qualities about my life will likely not be present anymore in a few decades – or perhaps even in a few years.
These fears were causing me more anxiety than they probably should have, until earlier this week when I watched the movie “Schindler’s List” for the first time. The Steven Spielberg-directed film tells the true story of Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, who single-handedly saved over a thousand Jews from certain death during the Holocaust in the 1940s. The most famous and powerful scene takes place in the present day, when all the elderly survivors each place a small stone or rock on Schindler’s grave in accordance to Jewish tradition. Watching this scene alongside the sweeping John Williams score, I had something of an epiphany about my own life.
I realized that by 2013 almost all the current living Holocaust survivors were my age or younger during World War II. Anybody age 21 in the early 1940s if still alive is in their mid-90s now. If not for Schindler, all the still-living members on his list of survivors would have been killed at my age or even younger. If I was alive in Europe at the time, that would have been me.
True, I have not completely eliminated the worry that this may be the single best (or one of the best) times of my life. Yet you never know. My dad is over twice my age and he proclaims that the best time in his life so far is probably right now. No word on whether that’s because my younger brother and I are both finally out of the house.
Let’s say I live to my mid-90s as well. For all I know, I will in fact look back at this period in my life as the best one of all. But “Schindler’s List” really brought home for me that the alternative is never even living long enough to get the chance to discover. Here’s to finding out.