The more time I spend in my twenties (six years now, for those of you keeping score at home), the more I am convinced that this decade is about moderation. It’s about toning down who you were in high school and college to be more palatable to a working, dating, marrying world, while trying to stay exciting enough to get a job, a date, a spouse. Maybe you partied a lot in college, only to find that in real life, having a hangover every morning made it difficult to hold down a job. Perhaps you once wrote a paper full of passionate rhetoric about Israel/Palestine or boldly stood up to denounce abortion in the middle of your women’s studies class. But this is the real world, and things are more complicated. Foreign policy debates don’t get solved in term papers anymore than lives are changed by bullhorns. So you temper your opinions and behaviors and watch The Hills instead. No one wants to talk about reforming DC public schools when Jersey Shore was on last night. So you move to the lowest common denominator and keep your head down, emerging as a slightly less-fun and less-thoughtful version of who you once were.
However, in my middle-twenties, I find myself moving backwards and spending a lot of time with teenagers. And I love it. Everything is extreme when you’re 16. He’s either the man of your dreams or not worth your time. She’s your best friend, or your arch rival. Joy is effusive, passion is undisguised, depression is worn on your sleeve and no one believes that you’re “fine”. In high school, life is either urgent or procrastinated. Teenagers don’t have a day timer with a list of deadlines carefully laid out and detailed plans on how to achieve them. Life is lived in the now.
My favorite manifestation of this is seen in greetings. Teenagers recklessly throw themselves into hugs. They cling to each other as if they have been apart for years, not hours. They go into a corner and breathlessly catch each other up on what was missed in the aforementioned hours. There is no shame in yelling across the room to welcome someone, or dropping everything to break into a run to meet someone at the door.
I spend time with teenagers for lots of reasons. But one of them is because I love this reckless abandon. I don’t come by moderation naturally. I am passionate and impulsive and loud and that’s hard to suppress in an office in uber-professional DC. So outside of the 9-5, I welcome the bear hugs and the urgency and the passion. I revel in a world that celebrates enthusiasm and joy.
I don’t think there will be handshakes in heaven. Only running hugs and gasps of excitement. Pure, un-moderated joy. I’ll be there with my arms waiting.