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It is a tenet of youth to try new things. If you talk to any old person, they’ll tell you the same thing: “Explore! Discover! Youth is fleeting!” This is a fine sentiment, even the ninety-fifth time. I’ve been young for as long as I’ve been around, and I hope to make the most of it, but I can’t see life changing all that dramatically. Everything is a discovery, really. I don’t imagine anything stagnating as I get droopier and more wrinkled. Maybe I’ll look back and laugh at my naiveté, or maybe I’ll regret ever stopping to think about youth rather than charging forth and enjoying it. But new things. Challenges. Growing into the person I’m “meant to be.” It all seems sort of silly. But maybe I’m just in my salad days and everything is green.

They say the same thing about college. My mother always loves to show me the photographs from her time in school: “Look, there’s Pat pretending to be asleep for a photo shoot! Here’s my cute little bangs. That’s me when I was a sophomore in college and always smiling.” I always liked to see the pictures and imagine my mother having the time of her life in a little dormitory. But now I’m a sophomore too. I don’t have bangs, but I do smile a lot, and now I wonder which pictures I’m going to put in a pink frilly photo album of my own. And I have never felt younger. I think I was maybe one of those kids that was just waiting to grow up. I was silly and childish, but I always supposed I was older than I really was. I stopped batting at piñatas at eight, “Let the little kids have the fun.” But now that I think of it, I was a little kid too. 

So now I relish in youth. I try new things. I talk openly, and I take a lot of pictures. It helps that everyone around me is doing the same. We’re all 19, we’re all on the verge of something… aren’t we? So we can run around downtown and make silly purchases and meet new people. I’m not in any particular rush. My mother met my father in her junior year of college. She was on an exchange in Monterrey and her roommate was the cousin of his roommate. Within five years they were married with a baby. The pictures in the next photo album are just as jubilant as those from her sophomore year. There they are in the mountains of Mexico, here they are at somebody’s wedding, in this one there isn’t any special occasion — just that they’re together. For my parents, youth became a fast, loving life.

I don’t know where youth will take me. That’s kind of the whole point of life, right? Forging paths unknown, making meaning out of whatever’s available, whatever else the old people in my life have tried to tell me — I promise I was listening. Considering life at such a grand scale makes my stomach a little bit ill. It’s scary to think of looking back! More than anything, though, the whole thing just makes me want to buy a film camera. Photo albums incoming. 

Clarissa Melendez

Columbia Barnard '24

Clarissa Melendez is a freshman at Barnard College, where she studies Art History. She loves books and movies and spends her time in Austin, Texas making collages and driving her 2003 Toyota 4Runner to the video store.
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