By Samuel Ullman (1840-1924)
Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.
Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.
Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.
Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.
When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.
My grandfather lived this way – and you could tell. He always laughed about life, and thought that living was the greatest adventure of all. Once you stop looking around the next bend, you stop caring what is next, and you might as well give up then.
I spent the weekend hiking out to some hot springs in Big Sur, CA and had a ten mile hike to myself to observe and think. My thoughts generally coalesce best while hiking alone and while writing. The natural rhythm of the hike, putting one foot in front of the other, twirling small sticks between my fingers with a piece of grass hanging out of my mouth, and the weight of a pack pressing against my back slowly working a burn into the muscles of my legs and shoulders all work together to bring my mind out of its continual hyperactive state. I am able to focus on the little things – the way the sun shines through trees, the movements of birds as they flit from one location to the next, the changing terrain and foliage as altitude increases and decreases. Most of all, I find myself always looking forward to what is right around the next bend. Will it be a cliff, fallen tree, group of hikers, or something new?
I return from these trips carrying a renewed outlook on life. What is around the next bend? Is it a chance to create a relationship with someone new? A chance to live in a different country? Or perhaps a way to create new programs and see my ideas come to life. I never know, which is exactly why it is always worth seeing what is “just around the next bend.”