If Not Now, Then When? Why Your Youth Is The Perfect Time To Take Risks

by Lauren Martin

“You’re alive only once, as far as we know, and what could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it?” -- Edward Albee

You're only alive once and you're only young once. Say it over and over again to yourself until you start to believe it. And in believing that notion, that idea, that concrete truth, start acting on it. People aren't telling you this because they like to hear themselves speak; they’re telling you because they don’t want you to waste your time.

If you haven’t already started feeling it, time moves pretty fast. The minute you graduate, you finally understand that expression of "warped time" as the days turn into months and the only thing you have accomplished is finishing your Netflix queue. Before you know it, you’ve passed through three seasons and another birthday. You begin to quickly realize that you don’t have all the time in the world to do everything. Suddenly, you must pick and choose wisely how you are going to spend your rapidly receding time.

We live under a notion that life goes on forever and our youth will never fade. We don’t imagine ourselves old and wrinkled, but look at old age as a fate we will never meet. Could there be any worse and more naïve way of looking at time? Expecting never to get there isn’t the answer, but living up every moment of your youth most definitely is.

Where you are right now is the most free and the most unshackled you will ever be. It’s the most energy you will ever have, the least responsibility and the most forgiving time of your life. It’s the only time you can make mistakes and it won’t matter (to some extent, of course); the only time you can give up everything for a single dream.

If you don’t start going after you dreams now, when will you? When you’re 40 and married with kids? When you have mortgages and car payments? When you have a job with health benefits and stock options? The longer you wait, the more there is to lose, and the more there is to lose, the higher the risk.

The idea of taking risks is to take a gamble, to accept giving up your present for a better future, but also to expect a loss. Risks are much easier to take when the expectation of losing isn’t a big deal because you didn’t have much to begin with.

Soon you will get a job and that job will seem like the most important thing in your life. You will sign a lease for an apartment and you won’t be able to get out of it. You might get a dog or a cat. Suddenly things start piling up and getting out of all those responsibilities makes it almost impossible to feel the complete sense of liberation and free will you once felt. No longer can you take those risks that once seemed so possible.

Now is the time to do those things you think you’ll do later. Right now is the best time and the only time to start chasing those innermost urges and passions. Only now, when you have no debt and no responsibility to anyone but yourself can you run off to Europe and open a café. Only right now can you jump on a train to Colorado to ski for six months. Only right now can you quit your job to become a painter.

Only right now can you be the person you always imagined, living in studio apartments, smoking weed and becoming a yoga instructor. Only right now can you quit your job because you can't stop thinking about writing that novel.

Your youth is fleeting and your time is precious. This time in your life won’t come again and you will only look back on it with painful regrets of "what if" and "I wish" if you don't start taking advantage of it. This time is for following your gut and listening to your heart.

Be young, be reckless, be stupid, be adventurous, be spontaneous and unpredictable. If you don't now, when will you?

Photo via We Heart It