Time and Youth

Posted on June 29, 2011 by


[Edited 8/6/11]

There are two quotes influential in my mind that made me think about how youth, particularly teenagers perceive time.

The teachers and counselors and principals don’t help things.  They scare you into doing things, into conforming and doing good in school by saying ‘If you’re a loser now, you’re going to be a loser forever.’  So that with Eric and Dylan, right they were called a fag. [They’re thinking]  ‘You know what?  If I’m a fag now, I’m a fag forever.’  You wish someone coulda just grabbed them and gone “high school is not the end of it.” – Matt Stone in Bowling for Columbine (2002)

“Lacking in many of these youths’ lives are the pre-employment experiences that assist human growth and development…many observers and writers have emphasized that economic concerns matter most in getting youths off the streets — through training, jobs, and other positive endeavors — by engaging them in productive, conventional activities and grounding them in the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will stay with them for life.  This will give them a stake in society.  First though, we need to figure out how to “steal their time” so that they are free to become involved in conventional activities (26) – Diego Vigil, Gangs Redux (2010)

I guess things seem so important and so long-lasting as a youth because:

  • they experience a lot of new and novel things.  Novel things and their bits take a little more time to process and are usually influential.
  • unless exceptionally rich and social with all kinds of people, the world of youth even in urban America is usually limited in comparison to adults:  usually consists of family, school, neighborhood.

This newness of things,  combined with the small social world makes whatever they do experience seem that much more important and longer-lasting.  And so perhaps this is why teenagers, in this liminal stage of society, can be driven easily to the extremes of things, be it school shootings or the need to join a gang.

To a seasoned adult out there in the world, free to experience various stimuli, the teenager’s concern seems petty and some kind of growing pain for them to merely get over.

As Douwe Draisma wrote, time moves slow as a youth because everything is new and novel, but as you get older, you start clinging to some kind of routine, and time moves really fast.