I’m a year out of college and I’ve never felt more like a student. Like I can be the one asking the questions in the room, allowed to indulge in a giddy, childlike curiosity and contentment that needs to come from nothing more than reading something new and well-written and really enjoying my morning coffee. I was afraid to lose something of this spirit after college, and ironically, I’ve never felt more free to be openly curious and vulnerable and not have the answers than since graduating. Luckily, I’m surrounded by amazing people who remind me of my responsibility to continue putting that energy out in the world.
Earlier this year, I received a note from my friend and mentor Sam Stolper, a badass intellectual and baller whom I admire immensely, addressed to another Harvard undergrad and me:
“You two are my youngest non-family friends. If you don’t know by now, let me tell you, I consider that a very important role in my life. It’s on you guys to help us maintain our curiosity, our energy, our idealism.”
A few days later, my colleague JaNay Queen said to me:
“I care for you not just as the youngest person here but as a young professional. You’re the purest form of what we have. Your presence challenges me and reminds me that we have to link the values we have to the work we do, and that’s a way you hold responsibility for our culture.”
Apart from being extremely empowering, these snippets highlight the role that “youth” plays in society as it relates to keeping people’s minds and hearts open and idealistic.
When I visited Brazil in 2011 with my father and a few of his coworkers from the World Bank, his dear colleague and friend Cyprian said to me:
“Here in Brazil we see poverty, corruption, and crime — and yet you see beauty and are so inspired by this place. Where does that come from?”
I gave some answer that would be laughed out of any economics classroom about the spirit of the kind people there and how that could be separated from the hatred and need so rampant in the country and I expected Cyprian Uncle to push back with cynicism and a correction and instead he said:
“Keep that. We need that kind of idealism in our work and our world.”
In retrospect, it was silly to think that youth has to do with being in college, or that youth is a prerequisite for optimism. I’ve been afraid of losing something, but it’s not actually being old that I’m afraid of. I think that “youth” might be what people mistake “wonder” for. Just genuine, curious, excited wonderment at this world. And so it’s not that I have to be young at all — I just have to commit to asking questions. I have to commit to being excited. I have to commit to letting the smallest, stupidest things still make me smile.
I just graduated college, and I get to be the youngest person in the room again. My goal is never to lose that —the ability to believe in what is by all counts crazy and impossible — because if we can keep that, our youth is infinite.
Originally published at medium.com