Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 1: Of Youth and Life [Charis]

Hello! Charis chipping in here, from wet and single-digit temperature Providence. I'm a rising sophomore at Brown University, concentrating in Biochemistry. When not delving into the miraculous mechanisms of life, I spend my time doing art - for commission, or just purely for pleasure - and this includes traditional as well as digital, plus graphic and web design.

(c) Charis Loke.

My other interests include helping students approach the American college application process, Tolkien, medieval history, computer games, and mythology, all of which deserve more than mere mentions, but which I must forego in the interest of keeping things brief and staying on topic.

So this is a youth-powered blog, and it's fitting to kick things off by thinking about what it means to be one. I have this to offer: the best thing about being a youth, for all time, is the mix of optimism and idealism that comes with it, slightly tempered but not quite.

No longer children, we've seen the world and think we can do something about it. We've had people tell us at least once that we can't, we shouldn't, we wouldn't be able to do things - and sometimes they were right. We've learnt to a small extent how to approach our goals and hopes. But we're not so far beaten that we refuse to try; we're not so cynical that we've lost all hope. And some of us try, and some of us succeed. You might notice that this is playing very nicely into the whole bright-eyed, bushy-tailed youth stereotype, and part of it is, because I cannot speak for every young person out there, but I'd like to think that a fair bit of us do have as part of our goals something that will change the world, and I'm honored to know some who already have.

Every blog post deserves a LOLanimal. (c)

I'm going to suggest that sometimes - sometimes - this is mistaken for rebellion. I've been in situations where I'd like to think so myself - that me disagreeing with, going against older people was because of idealism and not useless rebellion. It depends on your point of view, and that would certainly differ if you were the older person in question. But I'm not about to pretend that idealism is useful in all situations, or that rebellion is merely a creator of entropy.

Are youth rebellious? Too general to answer. Are all youth rebellious? No. Do we rebel like we used to before? No idea. I can venture that in some respects we're living easier than the previous generations, but there are things that make me wish I lived a couple of centuries ago - pollution, ridiculous social ideals, increasing lack of dependence on self-sustenance and face to face contact. Here's a virtual wave at ya. I wonder if we'll lead a mostly virtual life years from now. To be honest, I might not mind, as long as it's MMORPG-style and I get badass abilities.

Badass indeed. (c) Turbine Inc.

Ah, life. Prof. Ken Miller announced in the final bio class for this semester that he'd decided to change the final exam to one that had only one question: "Life: Explain." It may have been a joke, but it's telling that it's coming from a biologist, because, after all, biology is the study of life. I'd like very much to spend a significant portion of my life understanding our world, which is where biochemistry comes in, and at least as much contributing to it - through science, art, and other things I haven't discovered for myself yet.

In the brief course of my life, I've realized that I'm happiest doing something that I like that also makes a change in the world, small as it might be. Even if it's just a change for my family and friends, all of which are important in my life, and whom I don't feel that I have to choose between, that's something accomplished. If I manage to help people whom I don't know, all the better.

The best part of my week for this semester was Fridays, where I'd board a bus with other college students, head across town to a neighborhood utterly different from the relatively wealthy College Hill upon which Brown sits (Harvard is obscenely richer, though), and help out with after-school art club for children. There's nothing better than seeing children explore and discover for themselves all the wonders and cool stuff art can do. I don't know how much of an impact an after-school club will have on their larger lives, but I like to imagine that it at least opened doors for some of them by providing an avenue of expression.

I might conclude by observing that what I think I fear the most is being useless, as vague as the term is. Not having done enough before I'm out of here, before I exit stage right. Death is really nothing compared to this - there's nothing to fear about death if you know you're satisfied with your life, if you're ready to go.

I'm not ready to go yet, but I'll stop here, for now.

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