Many young people have lost their jobs because of economic lockdown and to entertain the fear they may never get another job for years is unthinkable for any teenager to get their head around at the start of their working life. Even those young people who have managed to retain their manual jobs naturally fear going into an unprotective work environment where social spacing is simply impossible, and safety comes second to securing the owner’s next customer order. Consider the constant angst of young workers (usually on minimum wages) in supermarkets, shops, and other places of work who face hundreds of customers daily, and who do not have the option of working safely from home. Whether it is manual or menial work some young people do, consider the psychological and mental cost they bear every day they travel home on public transport in fear that they might have contracted the virus and will pass it on to another vulnerable family member?
Then, there are the privileged young, the more academic ones in their late teens who look forward to getting time away from the parental abode and being able to spread their wings without parental comment, oversight, and control spoiling their lifestyles. These are the teenagers taking their ‘A’ levels, seeking a good university course that will set them up and shape their future life. The past year has witnessed their disruptive school attendance, hampered their daily learning, seen their examinations cancelled and their university hopes placed on hold. Even the students who managed to finally arrive at the university of their choice, instead of being welcomed by lecturers eager to commence the academic year, they found all their highly-paid educators ’working from home’, by means of zoom lecturers, skype tuitions and the occasional phone call to confirm that they were still alive in their Covid-confined corridors and padlocked university buildings. Instead of experiencing the traditional fun of Fresher’s Week, the only high jinks that new university students were able to get up to was ‘pulling their hair out’ as to why they could have been so foolish to take on a £60,000 university debt, to do what they could have done from the comfort of their own bedroom anyway in the parental abode, besides being well fed by mum in the process!
It mattered not whether the work required from the young was of the manual, menial or academic variety, each young person had to face their own fears and frustrations as they risked contracting Covid-19 and being a carrier of it back home. As to their futures, forget it. They were all forced to take a Covid-19 Gap-Year and could look forward to years of uncertainty ahead.
The young have no lesser love of freedom than do their parents and the more senior citizens in society. Indeed, it could be said that their need for freedom and emancipation at this time in their life is all the greater. This is the most crucial time in their lives, where they will feel with an intensity that only the young have and the old have sadly forgotten. It is a time when much explorative thought is forged in their minds and the most momentous of moments are supposed to happen, from whichever strata of society they were born into and come from.
These are the years when young men and young women should have all the opportunity to travel to and explore new countries and try out new things. These years should be times of self-discovery when they hopefully find out what it is that they want to do with their lives over the immediate years ahead. These are the years they learn a lot about life and love, about absence and abandonment, and about happiness and sadness; all essential lessons for the romantic heart who so far has witnessed too many cold seasons and not enough springs. These are the years when they learn about the heights of happiness and the pit of despair, and emote with an intensity of feeling that only the young heart can manage. It is the time when hearts take flight in a moment of fancy, and can come crashing back down to earth, and are capable of being broken in a matter of moments. It is a time when first love is found and lost within a beat of the heart, and first blood is spilled by many a fair maiden during a moment of heated passion.
One’s teenage years should be a time to treasure, a time to remember, a time to make mistakes and make amends. It is a time to live and a time to love. It was never meant to be a time for boyfriend and girlfriend to be kept apart in Lockdown.
And when this current time of uncertainty, depression, desperation, death, and fear has passed over, will the young, will we, will any of us be the same people ever again. There has been an economic cost of this pandemic which is of unimaginable proportion; and although it will be the country of today that will pick up the tab, it will be the youth of ten thousand tomorrows from now who will still be paying off the debt! For the first time in centuries, nostalgia will hold significant meaning for the young of the future.
My song today is ‘Young Hearts Run Free’. This disco song was written by David Crawford and originally recorded by American soul singer, Candi Staton in 1976. The record reached the Number 1 spot on the ‘Hot Soul Singles Chart’. It also peaked at number twenty on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ singles chart.
There is nothing like the heart of a young person feeling love for another to shake their sensibilities to the core and rock their world. Young feelings have a rawness about them which hurts deeply when the heart is first wounded, and pride falls foul to unrealistic expectations of finding true love the first time around the block.
There is something about the innocence and greenness of youth that makes all things felt by them more intense they were ever meant to be. Young people can be happier than adults, sadder, more content, and more disappointed than adults. Whatever level of pleasure or pain that adults experience, young people can equally match with bucket loads to spare. It is as though their innocence makes them more vulnerable to the pitfalls of humanity. One needs to have lived more years to acquire a streetwiseness that can tell the difference between devilment and sheer wickedness. Only the experience born with age can accurately gauge the distinction between possibility and likelihood.
When a young person gives their heart for the very first time, it is done with the sacredness and solemness of it being the only time. For them, there is no other person in the world to love other than the person they now feel love for. To them, one moment and a lifetime is indistinguishable when they are in each other’s arms, and when they are apart, time remains as constant.
How many occasions have wise parents asked their impetuous teenage children to wait a few years before they get engaged or seek to marry the young man or woman they profess to love and want to spend the rest of their lives with? How many times have concerned, and loving parents advised their children to get a good degree behind them and to get a good job before they seriously think about getting married and being able to support a family? How often has a mother who is only wanting the best for her daughter advised her to remain a virgin until her wedding night, or at least to go on the pill if she is unable to abstain from sex outside marriage and before she is ready to parent a child? And how likely is the young person willing to comply with parental advice, especially when their hearts and hormones run away with them beneath the moonlight one romantic night as they face the very same teenage temptations that sexually taunted mum and dad during their courting youth many years earlier. How can teenagers not understand why it is their parents do?
Just as the Jesuits would boast, “Give me the boy until he is seven and I’ll give you the man”, so I believe the seeds of youthful folly are sown. When I was 8 years old, I fell in love with Winifred Healey. Winifred was slightly taller than I was and seemed more mature. She was three months older than me, but she knew how to kiss without being bashful in the process. One morning during our school break, we agreed to ‘go with each other’. The term ‘going with someone’ did not signify that either of you went anywhere together. What ‘going with someone ‘meant was that ‘nobody else did’. It meant you were a couple, and every other boy or girl in the school recognised that you were ‘spoken for’. Once made, such a sacred declaration between boy and girl became tantamount to being no less than an adult engagement to marry when you were 21 years old. Meanwhile, their school friends would acknowledge the solemn pledge by keeping their grubby, sticky-toffee hands off either of the betrothed classmates.
Wanting to properly seal our engagement and love of each other in style, I did the only honourable thing a penniless 8-year-old boy from ma poor family could do; I stole a diamond engagement ring from my best friend’s older sister to give to my betrothed the very next morning at school. During the morning break when the free milk was being handed out, I gave Winifred her engagement ring. She was over the moon and instantly showed the sparkler off to all her school friends. Before class was out that day, the local policeman was hot on my tail, having heard on the educational grapevine about the 8-year-old Heckmondwike schoolgirl showing off a two-carat diamond ring to all and sundry.
Needless to indicate, that was the end of my first romance. Within one minute of being interviewed by the investigating police constable, and without even having been threatened by torture, Winifred Healey ‘gave me up’. We had only been ‘going with each other’ one day, and it soon became clear to me that we hadn’t gone anywhere yet and never would if she threw in the towel that easy.
Before she was 16 years old, Winifred Healey promised to ‘go with someone else’. Within six months of leaving ‘St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic School’ in Heckmondwike, Winifred entered the convent to become a nun after she had given her heart to another. It seemed that I never had a chance of winning Winifred’s heart. I had always been an odds-on-winner to lose Winifred’s hand to another. I had effectively been left at the starting gate of ‘The Winifred Healey Stakes’, to be declared a non-runner. I would be approaching 18 years of age when I next decided to jump back in the saddle.
Love and peace