I'm still a young man, and though it's right there on my driver's license, my student identification, my birth certificate, and so many other things, I often struggle to remember my youth. Such is the way of a Pace, to feel older than you are and, in many cases, even look it. Everyday, I see it in my mother, her modest years seeming to pile on her shoulders and weigh her down; it was in my grandmother, and is in my aunts as well. My uncles have deep lines in their faces, and nary a conversation is had without intonations that youth has long past, with troubles taking its place. I think it's something of a way to cope with this ever-changing world, a mentality that forgives the speed of life and reduces certain darkenings to the inevitability of mortality: it isn't so much that the world is speeding up as it is we're falling behind.
It's a bit of 21st Century Syndrome, so to speak. If you're reading this now, your life has transpired in the most rapidly advancing culture in the history of civilization. If one tries to grasp all the revolutions, be they technological or democratic, all the upheaval, be it social or economic, all the development, from the highest towers to the right of same-sex lovers being lawfully wed, well, you'll lose your breath. Everything changes everyday and, frankly, it's dizzying. So, I think I can understand that mentality, that notion of "I'm just getting too old" in the context of coping mechanisms, finding ways not to be overwhelmed by the whirlwind of modernity. But thinking such things allows time to slip by without savoring the finer points, the moments that may be transient but nevertheless invaluable. I struggle because this mentality is in my blood, a venom I'm continually draining out so as not to forget the present, so as to enjoy my youth without the lamentation of its brevity.
I like to get a little bit of whisky in me, to let the old firewater burn down the wall between the dancefloor and myself. I like walking with a girl I'm sweet on, carried along by that lightness of uncertainty and daring that must always have been in honest courtship. I even like the simple exhilaration of playing catch, when I put all I have into a throw and feel the echo of boyhood fantasy, the dream of roaming a big league outfield. I take note of all these things and I savor them. These sensations are the pillars of my youth; I do my damndest not to let them decay.
That intransigent corrosion can only be forestalled, however, not overcome. The unencumbered joy of youth goes from near perpetuity to grating intermittence, revisiting you in spurts, "just enough to piss you off", as the saying goes. I won't be able to drink like I used to. I'll wind up with one girl, finally at the end of the chase. My body will begin to betray me and that fantasy in the outfield will become a farce.
Of course, there will be the adult joys: promotions and other such victories; the first kiss of my new bride and the enrichment of holding my newborn child. But those unrestrained joys, the almost (and, sometimes, absolutely) hedonistic joys of youth, when the troubles of the world have no infringement on your ecstasy -- those reduce like water trickling from a spout. The joys where -- in the boldness of youth -- you tell the rest of the world to shove off (perhaps for the better) always begin to dissipate.
But by some chance or the grace of a merciful God, at some point in my childhood, maybe even the day I was born, I stumbled into a delight beholden only to the seasons, which it follows like clockwork, coming and going, but always there when I expect it to be. It requires none of my renovations, none of my fallible machinations. Of me, it requires only passion, a symbiotic requisite that serves me just as much. And if I ever think it might abandon me, if I ever think it might fail me, if I ever think the magic might have faded, it comes calling to me. It calls to me with the pounding of a hundred drums and the blaring of a hundred horns, a fight song to get the blood boiling. It calls to me with the echo of a hundred thousand voices, chanting religiously, summoning a mighty spirit. It calls to me with a collage of countless colors, of flags flying, faces crying, bodies colliding, seas of humanity swelling in united purpose.
And as soon as a whistle blows, and that low thud of foot to ball sends the locus of a million dreams hurtling through the air, and a nation of men and women and boys and girls simultaneously reproduce some drooling, lazy, squat little mutt's woof, I know it has me again. It has me like it had me in my little red sweater, in my little rocking chair, cheering with my grandfather; it has me on the couch with my best friend, debating greatness with the nonchalance typical of adolescence; it has me at the bar, glad that beautiful girl across the way also gave a jovial howl toward the television screen. It has me in youth. And one of the greatest comforts I can carry going forward, going into the uncertainty of manhood, going forward through the swift currents of the modern world, is the assurance that come Saturdays in the fall I will be shouting and cursing and cheering and jumping and frustrated by endless hurts that only sweeten the eventual triumphs, and this joy will feel no age, it will only have colors -- of the richest red and the darkest black -- that will never, ever fade.