I used to laugh a lot.
Sometimes I found laughter in the subtle quirks, mistakes and misunderstandings of daily conversation with friends or in observing bizarre behaviour unfolding before me. I would usually be overcome with giggling that eventually morphed into tearful jerking spasms of laughter if given even the slightest encouragement.
Then there was the nervous laughter, filling up the dead spaces, conveniently serving as an inoffensive avoidance technique when I felt awkward, not knowing what to say.
Or the uncontrollable laughter in shock after driving my brother’s car into a tree.
However, most times I couldn’t explain why exactly I found something hilarious. But that didn’t matter. I’d just laugh through everything anyway, all the way (but not yet all the way to the bank).
In any situation, in all its forms, laughter arose spontaneously for me and it felt good.
And so I went, laughing through life, one laughable moment at a time.
Then, one day, someone asked me why I laugh so much. With a sort of condescending tone.
So I laughed a little less.
Becoming aware of this and the resulting self-consciousness may have been the start of “real” life, but it remained strange to me that any spontaneous expression of joy could be frowned upon by others. Even seen as immature and stupid.
In spite of having now become more aware of my possible immaturity I was determined to maintain a youthful outlook on life.
I just really always felt young.
Then I met Claire.
Meeting Claire was like having a molecule of pure WOOOOW!pop!FIZZ!bang!WOOHAAA! injected directly into my brain’s main vein (whichever one that may be). She had no preconceived or fearful ideas about anything. Her book was so wide open the spine had cracked. Her guffawing at anything mildly amusing was as energising as being around a 12 year old – the epitome of unaffectedness. In the presence of this orb of crackling exuberance and enthusiasm, I found myself happily infected, revelling in the light, observing and basking in all the vigorous life fizzing before me.
And suddenly I felt old.
Like a wrinkly owl (if feathers could wrinkle) perched on a branch up high, peering inquisitively, watching her every movement curiously with restraint. Wanting but hesitant to join in on all the energy.
Meeting a person like this when you least expect it can have serious consequences.
You may begin to question everything you once thought about yourself.
I felt older than someone older than me. So what?
Youth. What does it mean anyway?
Claire lived her life as if each fizz-pop of a synapse was a total surprise, launching herself into everything with an open humility, excited to discover what would happen next. She’d glide gracefully past the rumbling stream of cautionary tales pouring involuntarily from all the mouths that “meant well”, joyfully forging on without thinking of all the things that could possibly happen – quite often skipping right into the face of all kinds of woe and possible danger still believing the best.
That the outcome WILL be good.
That somehow things WILL work out and she WILL find a way.
It seems that it is because of this determinedly positive state of mind that she was able to zoom past the panic and cut straight to the practical solutions to the challenges that inevitably arose in her life.
There’s something instantly inspiring about someone living their life without having it all figured out yet. Being open to any opportunity to learn something, to make a discovery, have an adventure.
I believe it’s through this attitude that people like this become eternally youthful.
And by association, so do we.
Photo Credit: Marc Sendra on Unsplash