O’Keeffe: Is youth wasted on the young?

Current adventure: Case


Kushagra Gupta/Observer

Spring Break is coming up on Mar. 5. The week off is a great chance for students to expierence things outside their comfort zone.

My dad likes to facetiously exclaim, “Youth is wasted on the young.” It’s a clever statement that claims youths take for granted their health, opportunities, energy, vibrancy, lack of responsibilities and the finite characteristic of time.

While I’ve always responded by rolling my eyes, it’s a scary prophecy. The last thing I hope for is to look back at my youthful years plagued by a gnawing pang of regret. Therefore, I’ve decided 2016 is the year I once and for all disprove this statement and embarrass its claim with a smorgasbord of anecdotal evidence.

To reach my goal, I’ve made concentrated efforts to complete the Cleveland bucket list I wrote about at the start of this semester. I’ve made plans to see my idol, Beyoncé, in concert, put together a rad road trip over spring break and set my sights on four months of backpacking through South America after graduation.

I hate stagnancy. Instead I choose to seek different opportunities and open myself up to new experiences. However this does not happen without sacrifice. A diet of peanut butter & jelly and frozen vegetables, huddling under blankets instead of cranking the heat and preferring the RTA to Uber are all daily sacrifices that allow for the creation of unique memories.

More important than sacrifice is mindset. You can save all the money in the world but if you don’t make a conscious decision to adapt your mindset, you will feed into the “wasted youth.”

Legendary naval computer scientist Grace Hopper once said a catchphrase I’ve embraced as my own: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Growing into your own person, away from home, solely responsible for your own decisions and well being is a strange and fearful realization. With each passing semester we gain more autonomy. In this newfound territory, we are able to balance respect for our parents and elders while choosing not to seek their approval for our every decision.

Many of our actions would not garner the seal of approval from those higher up on the hierarchy. Our parents might not appreciate our sleeping patterns or tendency to drink underage; our professors might not condone our test preparation techniques that rely on cramming and bending the notion of academic integrity.

At what point do we extrapolate this to a larger scale? When do we choose to move ahead with changes to our course of study, plans to study abroad or preparations for a summer internship, even when we know our parents or advisors might not fully support these changes? Someday, we have to embrace our own decisions and instincts. We can respect the advice of others and yet still step away from seeking their permission.

Perhaps my favorite phrase of all is, “If it scares you, you should probably do it.”

I’ve done plenty of things that have scared the hell out of me: from going on an overnight field trip in fifth grade, to taking an internship well outside the realm of my major and solo backpacking endeavors, to being vulnerable in relationships and taking classes that are MATLAB intensive.

These instances were wrought with fear and a desire to shrink back. But, each time the risk was well worth the reward. Upon conquering my fear, I reveled with insurmountable self-confidence.

It’s okay to be scared of risk. I’m certainly terrified of taking a ferry down the Amazon River on my own. But it’s extra important to embrace the very things that scare us. As Pinterest boards galore assert, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

When we throw our doubts to the wind and jump into the unknown with both feet, we grow into a fuller version of ourselves. We live richer experiences and end up in beautiful places we never imagined we could reach.

Join me in erasing any validity to “Youth is wasted on the young.”

Skip your next Starbucks indulgence and save up for a spontaneous excursion this spring break; spend less time stagnantly scrolling through Facebook and say yes to playing a new intramural sport. Find something that scares you, take a deep breath, and launch yourself into the unfamiliar.

Bask in the magic of life beyond your comfort zone.

Heather O’Keeffe is a fourth-year student majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in sports medicine. She wanted to be the next Bob Costas as a young’un.