This world is not youth-friendly.
Today was one of those days where I felt completely inadequate at my job. Not from a technical standpoint, but as far as my own personal standards go… well they just weren’t met.
Despite my failure to walk away from my shift feeling satisfied with the extent of how I was able to meet my patients needs, I did walk away with something. Youth is dying.
You’d think that in a profession where I see people in various states of illness and all out decay, I’d have faced this fact much sooner. What I choose to see isn’t the decomposition of a person’s shell though… it’s what remains in their minds.
Less and less am I encountering those lively spirits that take their challenges in stride. I often find my assignment riddled with those like my 35 year old who succumbed to 2 bottles of wine a day for nearly 20 years, trashed her organs, and became as equally dependent on the pain and psyche meds she was given to “help” her. Addiction is sad at any age, but it’s even worse to see a life devoid of any real childhood as a result of such a personality. One could say that they do it to themselves… but does a predisposition based on uncontrollable synapses governing conditions such as addiction really fall under the realm of what is technically under our control?
Then on the other end of the spectrum, I had a 70 year old man who spent the week bantering with me, laughing and connecting with anyone who crossed his path, even high-fiving me when I’d come up with a new witty insult. I discharged him home today, he hugged me before getting into his car and thanked me for being so giving. I think I gained more from him than he really gained from me. It’s spirit like his that keeps me from giving in to complete misanthropy. I can keep the faith in eternal youth as long as those people continue to cross my path. Despite the fact that it feeds my optimism, the aforementioned question relating to the alcoholic still applies on a level here. Can an unfailing sense of youth and optimism be just another form of addiction that’s truly out of our control?
This contrast inspires quite a large mystery to me though. We encounter people with severe problems with addiction every day. Sometimes it’s easy to tell the difference between a person who’s personality has dictated those choices from a very young age and those who have made a conscious decision to escape reality via that route at points in their lives when they should have had the common sense to know better. The youthful personalities on the other hand… well, you really don’t ever see someone who has grown to become that person. I have never heard of someone developing in that way as a result of the struggles reality has handed them. Can we feed off the memory of whimsy in the same way a junkie never forgets their last good high?
Personally, I find myself to fall somewhere in the awkward middle of these two states of mind. I can fall into an addiction quickly and easily. While I’m aware of this flaw, I suppose I’ll never be able to tell for sure how long that awareness will prevent me from falling into the traps that lie in waiting nearly everywhere. At the same time, I also frequently resort to seeing the world and all of it’s many experiences through the eyes of one much younger than I truly am. You’ll see me making jokes at my own expense far more often than you’d find me in the midst of a tearful breakdown. I find myself embracing the sensation of prepubescent adoration in my relationships. I daydream, I laugh, I have hopes for my future. While much of what I was has been shredded with time, I can hold onto the pieces and assemble what can only be described as an inner franken-child. You can stomp on it, you can remove some limbs… but what powers it is untouchable.
Perhaps I can be one of the few to become addicted to youth. Not in a state of regression… I would never want to go back to the years of terrible decision making and hormone swings beyond your wildest imagination. I’d like to evolve to see the world in a way that resurrects the lost hope of adulthood… take it in stride always. I find that thought very addicting…