On Sunday, Mariella Frostrup penned one of her best yet Dear Mariella column’s regarding the psychology of youth.

 One of the qualities the young are blessed with is an inflated degree of self-certainty often coupled with an unshakable sense of self... It’s commonly referred to as the ignorance of youth and, as defence mechanisms go, it’s as important as any we’ve been blessed with.

That such self-belief should be available in large quantities when we know little or nothing of the world has always struck me as the most convincing evidence of a “Grand Plan.” Something or someone very smart appears to have recognised that while we are in the process of bursting from our chrysalis and fluttering out into the big, wide world, we need conviction in our own capabilities just to propel us into what might otherwise appear a terrifying world. It’s what gives us the strength to take crazy risks, throw ourselves into unsuitable relationships, embark on mad adventures around the world and generally cause the adults in our lives to fret and at times even despair.

While I have experienced my fair share of those wishing to rain on my parade, as a rule I have been fortunate in having had relationships with individuals that truly embrace the nurturing of the next generation. The man I shorthandedly refer to as my late stepfather (he and my mother elected not to marry but the relationship was as significant to each as any marriage could have been) was hugely influential in fostering my self-belief. That’s not to say he was without criticism, anyone who knew Bill Daring will attest that he did not sugar coat his opinions, but the criticism was always fair, always deserved and most significantly, always constructive and with clear advice on how to improve. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t actually follow the vast majority of his advice (not at first at least) and would roll my eyes like the best teenage brats, but the underlying message got through.

It’s your journey, it’s your path. Make it happen and make it count.

It’s true for everyone and when we lack experience to make the decisions that need making then we must throw all of our conviction at what our gut tells us, or what we fancy doing, or what side of the coin came up. If we actually stopped and considered whether we could do something, we’d never leave the front door.

I’ll confess that until I was boarding my flight to Singapore when I moved to the Far East in 2008, I avoided thinking about it. I had no idea how to find somewhere to live and whether I was capable of building a new life. I just threw myself at it and hoped for the best. And of course, we are all infinitely resourceful when we need to be and so I coped perfectly well. My life has now changed and the adventure that brought me back to the UK (a most incredible man) saw me gain a degree of experience that has seen me begin to lose some of my youthful recklessness. The experience has come at the hands of my boyfriends’ two young sons; two wonderful people in whose eyes I am ‘an adult’. For the first time, I have begun to understand the fearful aspects of those I have tended to label “old people.” 

Suddenly I find myself terrified of making mistakes. While I could laugh at my stupidity of falling asleep on a beach and being robbed there is nothing funny about thinking you’ve lost a cherished stuffed toy. I worry about ridiculous things that a year ago wouldn’t have touched upon my radar. Life is now about striking a balance between impetuousness and patience. I am learning to roll my eyes less at the boyfriend I have a tendency to refer to as prematurely middle-aged and appreciate that his reservation is not only a side effect of fatherhood but reflects a maturity and sophistication that I am yet to attain. The balance he brings to my life has always been an attractive quality but I’m increasingly stepping away from the notion that he is the yin to my yang (although I believe we will always complement each other’s personalities) to a view that he is just a little further along life’s path than me. In others I value qualities I once found insipid and dull and am losing appreciation of qualities I once found vivacious and novel.

Today when the boyfriend and his boys burst into his flat I was taken aback by there being two children where last week there was a child and a toddler. His youngest has just turned two and has suddenly started putting words together. It was like meeting a new person, one suddenly self assured and with a huge increase in control over his language; pointing at the TV and requesting “program Daddy”, holding his cup out to ask for “apple [juice] please” and “up Tay (he can’t say his K’s)” when he wanted me to pick him up. And in an incredible double development, his elder brother (who recently turned 5) started a conversation with me about how there were no planes today because of volcanoes (this came complete with him explaining volcanoes to me).

This surge in confidence is wonderful to be privy to and their willingness to try and fail is inspiring. This is my trade off, for losing my own exuberance and weathering the storms of experience, I get to enjoy it in the next generation. And I’m happy to grow up slowly because the people I believe I can learn the most from are children. Gaining experience is vital to my future and I embrace it wholeheartedly but I’m glad I have my grounding; while I enjoyed #leadersdebate I’d say the two most important points made this evening were the youngest saying his pleases and thank you’s charmingly and the eldest showing an appreciation of cause and effect.

* Ok I am, but that’s not the point here.

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