What does it mean to be a youth?

To be able to relate to depressing indie music for hours trapped in our bedroom? Or trekking to the top of a hill and reveling in one's achievement with a great view? Or constantly trying to find your place in the world—a world that looks increasingly complex as days go by?

The term "youth" has become somewhat of a buzzword that people use as part of their everyday jargon. Different businesses, competitions, events and campaigns have the word thrown in using funky fonts, graffiti-style designs and forceful use of teen lingo to try to appeal to the younger crowd. But who is this... youth?

"Youth, to me, is a state of being," says 17-year old Farhan Rashid. "Just how babies crawl before they learn to walk, youth is a stage we all must pass to become an adult. Youth therefore is an important part of life where we develop emotions, logic, perspectives and all that really make us human."

When you're in your teen years, your priorities are different. Not having a moment to yourself between school, tuitions and extracurriculars can be overwhelming. Yet the beginning of youth is spent discovering yourself and finding your personality. What type of music do you identify with? What colours do you wear? And who do you call your friends at school and around your neighbourhood?

It is during our youth that we navigate some difficult situations; nobody said coming of age was easy. Experiencing emotions like sadness or having anxiety for the first time, whether it happens to you or somebody around you, is a struggle in and of itself. Growing family responsibilities and stepping up to your duties at home can be daunting. Watching your parents age before your eyes is as scary as growing up is exciting. More importantly, the changes don't end there.

"To me, youth and being young is more about a feeling. It's a feeling of caring less, having fewer responsibilities and not worrying a lot. Just being lively without trying. I miss it the most because I feel like my youth is going away fast," 23-year old Nusrat Zahin confesses.

Perhaps you were never involved in personal finances before, now suddenly you find yourself looking for part-time gigs or a student who you can pass on your very limited knowledge to. Handling, negotiating and saving your own money makes you feel like more of an adult. It's something which every youth aspires to be. At 18, I ventured out for the first time and joined a school as a part-time reacher. I was the youngest staff member and wasn't taken very seriously. However, this independence and discovering what you are like is arguably the best part about youth.

Youth is of course a transitory state. No matter how much we try to make sense of our experience as a young person, none of us will be one for long. So when do we leave our youth? As responsibilities keep piling up and realities catch up to us, we find ourselves aware of the uncertainties of life. Scared of the decisions we're taking, doubtful of the commitments we're making, and not knowing if we can live up to our own expectations. Career, investments, health and our own families suddenly start demanding more from us. And as we move along our path going from one state to another, we give in and oblige.

Nevertheless, it is said that youth can change the world. Why so?

Perhaps because nobody believes in their own potential as much as a young person does. The kind of selfless giving and optimism the youth has is why young changemakers are unparalleled. They are doing commendable work all around the world. From raising money for charity and voluntarily teaching disadvantaged children to running multi-million dollar companies, the youth is taking giant leaps in making our world a better place for future generations.

There are several issues the current generation care for. Climate change, mental health, human and animal rights, women empowerment and education are some of these crucial causes. We interpret the world differently and have our vision about the planet and its inhabitants and raise our bold voices to show the power of youth. When you see young people distributing food to the poor in the sweltering heat of Dhaka or holding online sessions to try to educate more people at different locations about a misunderstood topic, that is the power of the youth. When students forget their differences and join hands to stand against injustice or use their skills and knowledge to create new frontiers in science, that is the power of the youth.

Youth is not being scared of the countless flights of stairs when the elevator is closed for maintenance. Youth is being able to function a whole day during finals with only two hours of sleep. Youth is making travel and business plans with each group of friends you have with little planning about the practical side of things. Youth is about coming from a small town and fulfilling dreams to make it in the big city. And youth is, of course, having a strong ideology and going out there to change the world because you believe things can be changed.

To me personally, youth is a state of mind. It's feeling invincible knowing you have your whole life ahead of you. It's knowing you have time to explore the things you love and do the things you've always wanted to do. That I will have choices to make and decisions to take. Life is a journey and I—a youth—am ready; I can grow, learn, experience and shape my life as I go along.

Mrittika Anan Rahman is a daydreamer trying hard not to run into things while walking. Find her at [email protected]


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