The freedom of youth

By Lawrence Bailey

Considering how much we value freedom, it results in a startling amount of lamentation. By far, the greatest freedom we have is the ability to do what we will and to live our lives as we see fit. So why are there so many long faces and lost souls in the days leading up to February 14?

The folly of using love as a measure of success and a means of attaining happiness is made most evident by the juxtaposition of bliss and blubbering every Valentine’s Day. I am one of many with every reason to be embittered by life’s cruelty and rhapsodize over the pain of love lost, but I choose not to because there’s simply no point.

Now, that’s not to say love is a futile pursuit or a worthless emotion. On the contrary, it is one of the most rewarding aspects in the gamut of human experience. But when the broken-hearted and the lovesick become annually mired in a depressing state of self-pity, I can’t help but wonder why.

Why hang your head, drag your feet and bemoan your freedom? Why not celebrate it?

Regardless of whatever romantic notions you may or may not hold about love and relationships, it must be acknowledged that they are subject to timing and they demand compromise and sacrifice. Therein lies the beauty of being a free agent. You live your life solely for yourself-and there is great value in that.

You see, there are certain things that can’t be done within the confines of a relationship, certain avenues of existence that can’t be explored. There are foreign countries and foreign citizens you may never experience otherwise. There are great memories and great regrets you may never get the chance to develop.

Above all else, being unattached lets you explore all the "I wonders" and "what ifs" of your life. It helps you understand what you want from it all and gives you precious independence, time to yourself and peace of mind. It opens the door to a world of relationships, from the platonic to the purely sexual, that simply aren’t an option for the attached.

And then there are the countless memories.

There’s the European Countess you only knew for a few perfect days that now lives on in the idealized memory you will always carry with you. There’s that crazy time in Amsterdam when you woke up beside a breathtaking local in spite of the fact that you don’t speak the same language. There are all those stories of nights out with the boys or girls that seem to surface only at weddings and 40th birthday parties.

You see, there’s a very good reason behind the adage "youth is wasted on the young." We spend so much time looking for perfection, planning our futures and trying to get where we’re going that, once we’ve arrived, we wish we would have enjoyed it all a little more.

There’s also a very good reason why we regret the things we never did so much more than the mistakes we’ve made. It’s simply because life is meant to be lived, it is meant to be experienced and we lose out if we pass up those chances. The fewer "what ifs" and "I wonders" you take with you to the grave, the happier you’ll be.

Now, I am in no way against the occasion itself or committed relationships, though this once was true. For those fortunate enough to be in a rewarding relationship, Valentine’s Day is a beautiful thing. It is a chance to celebrate each other-something definitely worth celebrating. But that joy doesn’t need to be counterbalanced by the sadness of singles the world over. Love and happiness are not zero sum games.

Ultimately, you are the only person responsible for your own happiness, so accept that responsibility and cherish it. Do what you want, not what you should. Your mistakes will be forgiven you while you’re young, so make full use of this.

If you aren’t in love this Valentine’s Day, do yourself a favour and start falling in love with yourself. You’ll have a lot of fun and besides, a healthy dose of narcissism never hurt anyone.

Lawrence Bailey can be reached at

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