Celebrate youth who stick to the straight, narrow
If we are to be honest, spaces for the straight-and-narrow youth are very few.
Instead, prominence has been given to the young, wild, reckless and free youth.
- Unfortunately, we never realise how much this sidelining affects these young people.
Being young is electrifying and aptly so! Since youth comes once in a lifetime, to live and experience it fully is an obligation. Globally, there are four words that characterise this season — young, wild, reckless and free. Mostly because during this time youth are a walking laboratory, experimenting with all things – drugs, alcohol, illicit sex and care-less relationships. The driving ideology behind this lifestyle is captured in captions like: “Be young, be stupid, be reckless” and “You Only Live Once”. It’s an idea so entrenched in our culture that there’s no room for a different way of living for today’s youth. If you’re not living like this as a young person, you’re perceived as boring and missing out on life. Is this a fact or a perception?
Let us for a moment think about the young people who are not drinking. Young men and women who, because of an alcoholic parent or family upbringing, have decided to do life without alcohol and its relatives. Let’s talk about sex and the young people who are not doing it. Young people who, for various reasons – religion, past bad sexual experiences, risks involved, or the fact that they are not ready – have decided not to indulge in it. Let’s talk about relationships and the young people who are OK with being single because they have neither the time nor money for such commitments or have certain standards that have to be met by a man or woman before they date them. In this era where sex sells, alcohol is cool and being in a relationship is the ultimate goal (especially for young women), are there spaces for youths who abstain from all these purported hallmarks of youth in our society? Do they feel safe enough to come out and say it?
If we are to be honest, spaces for the straight-and-narrow youth are very few. Instead, prominence has been given to the young, wild, reckless and free youth. Unfortunately, we never realise how much this sidelining affects these young people until we are in a space where they describe how it is affecting their everyday lives. These youth will tell of the lack of elaborate programmes for single people; the pain of being dumped and business deals that have fallen through because they declined sexual advances, and of how harassed they feel when they have to explain why they don’t drink or go out. They will tell of the pain of being left out of a hangout because they are not “fun” enough and of feeling isolated at a time when they should be enjoying life. As a result, their self-esteem takes a hit and, because they want to belong, they cave into the pressure, giving in to societal expectations of them.
They do it, not because they want to but because the alternative isn’t as “lit”. In the end, they come out broken, damaged and hopeless, only for the same society to look at them, shame them, spit on their faces and turn their backs on them. These effects go beyond their youthful life. No wonder we have widespread cases of depression today.
It’s wrong for young people to take a beating because they have chosen a less-travelled road. If sex, alcohol and meaningless relationships are not #goals for one per cent of the youth, they shouldn’t be made to feel anything but wholesome. They are still living the life just not as society postulates. Society should acknowledge this and cater for them. There should be events to celebrate singles not to hook them up (singlehood isn’t a disease), and parties where youth can have fun while sober, outside religious settings. It should be common to have opposite sex friendships that lead somewhere except the bar or bedroom. Youth with certain relationship standards shouldn’t feel the need to lower them in order to find a partner. If anything, society should up its standards. Virginity and celibacy should be celebrated and people must keep in mind that non-alcoholic beverages like juice, tea, etc, are also drinks. Should they still choose to experiment, they should do so out of choice not to get likes.
Wholesome youth become wholesome adults. Given the tragedies that have befallen the youth, the concept of a happening young life needs a major readjustment. The current one is unfulfilling, costly and bears bitter fruits that endanger generations.