Sustaining the springtime of life
The buzzword of our forefathers and heroes are the following words, “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan (The youth is hope of the nation)."
I have not given the word "youth" much thought before. I have heard it uttered several times during graduation rites, election campaigns, advocacy promotion, and even during lectures inside the university. But what does youth really mean?
For statistical purposes, the United Nations defines youth as persons between ages 15-24. According to UNESCO, "youth" is best understood as a period of transition from dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence and awareness of our interdependence as members of a community. Our very own National Youth Building Act of 1994 from which the National Youth Commission sprang from, cites ages 15-30 as categorical age range for youth.
What is youth?
Even though age is the easiest way to define this group, particularly in relation to education and employment, age has limits. For one, among different cultures, age of emancipation or the age from which one leaves compulsory education and finds first employment, varies and higher levels of unemployment put many into a prolonged period of dependency and therefore a higher age limit.
So again, I ask, what is youth? Is it a time, a stage of life? Is it wholly a matter of ripe nubility and physical strength? Is it about one’s age? I find these very limiting when defining "youth" so I took the liberty of expanding them to reflect the word youth’s essence.
At its core, youth is a state of mind. It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, the vigor of the emotions, and a freshness of the deep springs of life. It means constantly choosing bravery over timidity, of yearning for adventure over love of ease.
No one grows old by merely living a certain number of years. People grow old only by leaving their ideals. Years may dry up our skin, but to give up our convictions dries up our soul. Worries, fears, doubts, self-doubts, terror and hopelessness – these are the long, long years that bend our backs and turn our spirits into dust.
Hope of the nation
Whatever our age, there is in everyone’s heart, the child-like wonder, the constant looking forward for what is to come. A young soul sees the bliss and game of life and daring challenge of events. We are as young as our conviction, as old as our indecision; as young as our determination, as old as our trepidation; as young as our hopes, as old as our despairs.
Embedded inside each of our hearts is a deep receptive abyss. So long as this chasm receives messages of beauty, hope, joy, courage, and love, we will always be young. Youth is our attitude towards life.
This makes the famous adage “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan” take on a new light. Regardless of age, all of us could be young because all of us can believe and hope again. All of us can participate in building this nation again. All of us can vote with utmost discernment and can act honorably towards our neighbors again.
If only we take the challenge of upholding the spirit of the youth all the time. We can find there are no limits in serving and leading. When all of us are young-at-heart, we can be a formidable force to be reckoned with. Leaders and powers-that-be will listen to us and put us first because they know we do not give up easily on the things that matter to us.
At some point in my life, I lost my youth. It was right after I spent a substantial amount of time in the world of politics to know that most individuals holding power are there mostly to protect the interest of a few. It was a world where concocting riveting stories to deflect the people from discerning the truth and lying for gains are considered typical – secretly lauded even.
Upon witnessing that more focus was given to winning seats than working for the people, the youth in me wasted away. All that was left was this disbelief that no matter what good I do, nothing will change. The force of these manipulative, selfish, lying individuals was too strong. It was enraging, and disheartening – seeing how fairness has sunk so low in our government and society. I heard many who also share these same sentiments. I left that world.
But then, I got to spend time in a state medical school, where most of the students have genuine desire to help people. I've seen how they forego sleep, time for family and self, and even delayed financial rewards just so they can obtain proficiency to help the sick and alleviate others’ suffering.
I used to ask them why they do this despite the difficulties the inadequacies of our state-funded hospitals bring and they answered, “If not us, then who will help these people?” It was there that I realize all is not lost. I decided this was the side I want to be part of – the ones who make positive changes. I realized at some point, it will no longer matter whether the so-called leaders and politicians are not doing their best. If the number of proactive good citizens is superior, the voices of our lives will overpower theirs. The society will function at its optimal capacity.
Onto 2016 elections
Now I am going to stretch youth a bit, but I believe with the definition given above, it is imperative that we have more youth in politics. Plato once wrote, “He who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself.”
As frustrating and exasperating government and politics can be, they are necessary, and they are often forces that can be used for good. Indeed, whether we respect our government or not, we ask them to play vital roles in our lives. We ask the government to erect national defense; build roads, airports, bridges; create a business climate for economic prosperity; protect our workers and environment; provide education to our children; support the needy and sick; punish crimes; promote health and prevent epidemics; and defend our rights to free speech, assembly, and worship.
The 2016 election is fast approaching. I can already hear many of us intending not to participate in it because of the notion that it will not change anything in the society at-large. But I dare all of us to be young again. Small as they seem, our choices during elections determine a significant part of our nation’s history. Let us not waste this opportunity.
When the world seems bleak and our hearts become impenetrable because it is completely covered with blocks of pessimism and walls of cynicism, then, and only then, do we run out of the springtime of life.
If one will ask me to define youth in one word, I would say our forefathers and heroes are right – youth is hope. – Rappler.com