I am sure we have all heard the term “grow up” as instruction before —some of you reading this may even now identify as “grown-ups” (though some grown-ups do indeed need to be reminded).
But in each of our lives, what does it mean to grow up? Are we supposed to, all of a sudden, start making all the right decisions without fail? Are we supposed to leave behind things like play or pretend and replace them with an overgeneralizing, impersonal phrase like “priorities?”
When I was in middle school, a popular TV show at the time was Kids Next Door.
This show featured a huge treehouse that served more as a private intelligence agency than a hang-out spot for young people. However, all the agents that filled its walls were youth. At a younger age, the show was a comfort for me, imagining the grave responsibilities of being a high-security secret agent and a young person simultaneously.
But one afternoon after school, on my family’s couch, between rounds of the video game Skate 2 with my younger brother, the show shocked me.
The episode that was airing depicted the transition from teenager to adult in a single terrifying moment. A plan, maliciously hatched by some larger, scary and mysterious group (adults).
Now back in the real world, it can be easy to feel like our lives can completely change all in one moment.
I would like to argue that this feeling is absolutely consistent with our reality. This is not because one specific and predictable moment will change your life forever, like in the case of the teenagers in Kids Next Door. Instead, I believe this to be the case because any moment in your life can change you forever.
As humans, we are constantly growing, evolving, and coming to understand the world in new ways. When bringing this idea to light, the ability to look at the world with childlike eyes should be a trait we protect in our communities.
At the time of writing this, it is my first day as a 25-year-old. This age has become significant to me, not as a personal milestone, but as a point of no return. The youth council is a group of young people in Squamish who have devoted much of their free time to work through issues that impact people like us in town. The group meets monthly at a local venue, and there, my peers helped me feel incredibly connected to this community in Squamish as we worked to make this town more accessible. The age cut-off for members is 24, so unfortunately for me, my time as a council member is coming to a close, but I hear SquamishCAN classifies people up to 30 as “youth” so perhaps there is still time to carry the title a bit longer.
All jokes aside, I do feel myself getting older, but I am trying to choose to experience wonder the way a three-year-old trying ice cream for the first time would. I am trying to choose to hear the stories of others as a lived experience I will likely never have but can immeasurably learn from all the same. And I still choose to engage in climate crisis advocacy. However, I feel immeasurable anxiety about the future of our little planet.
If I may address my fellow youth one final time, as we get older, we do choose who we become, and I sincerely hope the youth in Squamish all look forward to seeing how they will grow. Because as an adult, I have seen and heard youth engage with this town by begging cars passing the playground for honks and in city hall with detailed proposals. Finally, never stop playing, and allow your pretending to take on new life as imagining better futures. I look forward to following your lead and building it as a community.
Harrison Cohen is a fourth-year Quest University student and outgoing member of the Squamish Youth Council.