“It’s a shame that youth is wasted on the young.” I heard that phrase often growing up. It was one of my grandfather’s favorite things to say. I remember at 15 feeling indignant that he had so little regard for the talents of my generation. From my perspective, he had always been old, so how could he possibly understand the miraculous inventions of the 1990’s and the youth that would revolutionize the world as he knew it? Now in my 30’s (and I am declining to say how far…) my perspective is a bit different. I am wiser to the fact that I haven’t lived long enough to have all the answers.
I have gained wisdom but not nearly as much as those who have lived to see the rest of the story. It has been my privilege to be a caregiver throughout my journey in nursing school and the experience has taught me a lot about nursing and also about life. A recent conversation I had with one of my residents is an ideal example of this. Mrs. B is as lively and entertaining as any 96 year old Southern belle could be. Full of quick wit and a lovely drawl, we sat on the roof of her building looking out over the sunset as it draped the Rogue Valley floor. “I never get tired of looking at this view,” she commented. “It’s not my southern valleys, mind you, but it’s lovely just the same.” She continued, “It’s exhausting to be as old as I am. I’ve had a long and wonderful life but I’m ready to go home.”
I froze. Just what do you say to a statement like that? “You’ve seen a lot that life has to offer” I said. “What is the best advice you have for enjoying it?”
Mrs. B laughed. “Well, I’ve lived long and had a good life; I just wish I’d taken more time to enjoy the view.”
That hit me like a rock. In my quest to move forward with my career and mark milestones, I had paid no mind to the present life I was living.
As a nursing student, I’ve had the opportunity to meet patients both young and old, beginning life, and nearing the end. The perspectives and views that they shared with me have offered a window to experiences and ideas that I had never previously considered. My own life, I find, has been enriched through these brief encounters. Through these experiences I have come to believe that life is not a destination on a slick freeway from zero to success. Instead it is a long and winding road, with bumps and potholes, and washboard ruts that rattle us to the bone. I think for those moments Mrs. B is right, perhaps the best thing to do is slow down and enjoy the view.
So at 34 (okay, there, I said it) I have come to realize that my grandfather was right after all. It’s a shame that youth is wasted on the young, and I say this with full awareness that I am not yet old. I wish I had known at 15 what I know now. At 34, I still don’t know much. What I have learned is this: live your life, embrace the joy, and learn from the hard lessons. I have learned that it is through the rough stuff that we truly learn to appreciate success. Most of all…slow down from time to time, if for no other reason than to enjoy the ride and take in the view. I have loved my journey through nursing school thus far and am scared and excited to begin the final chapter of my senior year. For now, however, summer beckons and with it hobbies and work and something other than pathophysiology and literature reviews to read. With that in mind, I wish you all a wonderful break. Enjoy!