So Young, So Free

Food for Thought

I bought a bunch of stuff from Kossar’s for Mike’s birthday breakfast, including their babka which functioned as a birthday cake. He was my college roommate in the late 80s.

I recently figured out a way to scan negatives with my DSLR camera, so I’ve been going through my film archive dating back to my teenage years, and sharing them with my friends. “So young! So free!” is a common reaction I get. It’s particularly true for my circle of friends because, in the photos, we were making art with no real plan of how we were going to make a living.

Why is “young” so often associated with “free”? Why do we lose that sense of freedom as we get older?

In the film, “Lost in Translation,” Bill Murry’s character, Bob, was having a midlife crisis when he met Charlotte in Tokyo. During that brief business trip, he got back in touch with what it was like to be young and free. Charlotte was at the very beginning of the life-long process of losing the sense of freedom as she had recently married.

At the critical stage of a game of chess, the outcome hangs in a delicate balance of the position and the role of every single piece on the board. In a midlife crisis, you are a piece that all the other pieces rely on to maintain the balance, but you can’t figure out how you ended up in that position.

Before you became a member of a society, you didn’t even know the rules of the game. You had no role or identity as they can only be defined by the rules. The longer you play the game, the more your identity solidifies, but not everyone is aware of this process.

This is why, when you travel to a foreign country like Japan, you feel young and free again because you become, once again, a piece entirely disconnected from the game board. Their language, customs, tradition, hierarchy, morality, and standards mean nothing to you. Even if they demand something from you, you wouldn’t care.

You feel deprived of freedom not because your society makes demands on you, but because you didn’t know you were free. Only in retrospect, when you look at the photos of yourself young, do you see the freedom you were swimming in.