I think back to me at 18, and for all the tumult of being that age, my life stretched before me with seemingly limitless, even frightening, promise. I had not yet known failure of any significant scope. I had yet to have my heart broken. I was going to change the world, dammit, and I wanted answers, and clear ones at that.
Things seemed simpler, or maybe it was easier to convince myself they were. Men in my peer group typically did a stint in the armed forces, and I enlisted in the Army with scarcely a thought to the justice of my country’s causes, or the effects of propaganda on my decision-making.
If my body ached, it was my own damned fault (well, mine and rum’s, anyway...). Time had yet to start insisting on its supremacy, had yet to supply me with the pains of its passage – pains of both body and mind. I understand the temptation in men my age to vainly try to hold on to a mercilessly vanishing youth — but that would require me to surrender wisdom, too, and more; being 18 again would mean the erasure of some memories by which I mark the years, experiences which have softened and mellowed the fabric of my soul.
I would lose the morning I got up before dawn, walked out into a meadow and watched the sun come up over the Vermont mountains and frosted-blue grass and fiery autumn woods. I would lose my first real love, and the way her face looked that one night as the moon lit its contours with blue and sacred light; I would lose the moment, praying the Stations, when Christ showed me His pain with such tenderness that I wept and gave Him some of mine.
Bob Seger once said in a song, "I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then."
Me? Nah. For all the melancholy and aches and increasing limitations, I’ll keep the lessons I’ve learned.