When we were young and stupid, we did things without much forethought, or afterthought for that matter. Sometimes it was a relatively small decision: It’s Friday night in the Tucson desert and we want to go to the beach. No problem- throw a bathing suit in the car, point it west, drive all night and arrive at the San Diego coastline with the sun rising at our backs. Sometimes it wasn’t so small: It’s 1990 and we are tired of living in the desert. No problem- sell the house, close down Pat’s business, quit my job, and fly and drive east with three babies under the age of 2, no jobs, no place to live, a few thousand dollars and two old beat-up vehicles. This is what I mean by “stupid”: no fear, no worries, pure unadulterated optimism. What were we thinking?? Oh, wait, we weren’t.
What is it about being a young adult that allows one to act on impulse with little or no thought to repercussions and consequences? If it feels good, do it; but is this a bad thing? I actually think it is not. Looking back, I believe that your teens and twenties are your time to test your mettle and see what you are made of. The world is still full of endless possibilities and your idealism is strong. You also have the energy for passionate engagement in subject matter and meeting new people with ideas different than your own. You give a crap. About everything. Politics, injustice, love, exploration; all out there for you to learn about and to fix.
Among some of the things I did during those years, I find the twisting and turning timeline that has become my life story. At seventeen, after graduating high school in New York City, I packed a suitcase, left my bedroom a mess and bought a one-way ticket out to Tucson. I had been accepted at the University of Arizona, but I was going out there even if I hadn’t been. At eighteen, when my then-boyfriend of only six months impulsively abandoned his own set plans to follow me out west, I agreed to marry him. As a junior majoring in Spanish, I suddenly decided to become a bilingual teacher. When I found myself working in a violent and impoverished school area, we became foster parents. After ending our ten-year stay in the Old Pueblo to search for our destiny back on the east coast, we bought an abandoned crack house with our last money and converted it into a gorgeous show place. Even now, looking back, I can see that all of these seemingly impetuous decisions were part of a fabric that has led me to where I am today.
If the opposite of “young and stupid” is “older and wiser”, then I wish there was a middle ground; maybe “middle-aged but still with a measure of carefree.” That is what I aspire to be now that the nest is empty. We can once again make last minute spontaneous plans on weekends; we can making slightly daring business decisions; we can stay up late having deep discussions and solving the world’s problems. It doesn’t have the same edge and abandon that it once did, but we’re not doing too badly for a couple of not-so-young and hopefully not-so-stupids.