Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates

Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates

Young Hearts Crying feels like one of those stories about children growing up. The stories usually begin with a cast of characters in elementary school and we watch them grow and change through high school, college and into adulthood. This story portrays our cast beginning in college, in their early 20s, and as they grow into middle-age, we see how each character chooses to change and evolve. The times change around them; some adjust, some resist. Success and failures in relationships, career, and personal health plague each character, each react by either accepting their limitations, challenging themselves to grow, or stagnating.

Stagnation is one of the most crippling fears that grip us as we age. Every character in the novel possesses a varying level of creativity: some are geniuses blessed with talent and success; some are clever minds who spark soon and fizzle, never able to grab hold of what they imagined would be a life-long career of creative success. My favourite character is a creative hobbyist. She throws herself into various creative endeavours: acting; writing; painting. She’s very talented at some art forms, only minimally talented at others, but she throws herself fully into each project, and falls out of each just as easily, her attempts to find herself felt organic and open more to experience than success.

Every character in the novels stays in contact with the others in one form or another throughout the course of the decades-long story. As they age, every meeting feels more forced and uncomfortable. It’s an excellent message I’ve been advocating for years: as we age, we change; we cannot always hold onto the passionate friendships from our 20s into our 40s because circumstance and experience will change us, fundamentally. We don’t stop changing once we reach adulthood; we do it our whole life. There might be people who you find when you’re young that stay with you for life, but chances are better that they won’t, and that’s ok. Live fully inside the time you’re in, and it won’t matter that this relationship that means so much when you’re 25 means nothing when you’re 52. It’s not a detriment of either person, whether in a marriage, friendship, or professional relationship, it all changes. Hold onto the people who are running along the same course as you, let the others go; attempt to do this without bitterness, and if you do come together again, years or decades later, your nostalgia will feel like a pleasant ache, and not as if admiring or loving this person from your past was a bitter mistake.

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