Nobel Prize-winning playwright George Bernard Shaw famously said, “Youth is wasted on the young.”

I bring this up today because of something I randomly thought about while vacuuming. On Sunday, Sean Penn won his second Academy Award for his role as Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, in the film Milk.

However, 27 years ago, in the Cameron Crowe-directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Penn played a dimwitted, surfer-stoner by the name of Jeff Spicoli. During a dream sequence, Spicoli was being asked by a reporter about two fellow surfers, and his response was, “Those guys are fags.”

With the film history lesson now over, this all jogged a thought inside my fucked up little brain. We all have done things in our past that we will be remembered for and that we wish we could just forget.

I don’t know the man, but from what I have seen from him in the last decade or so of his life in the spotlight, I am guessing that quote was one that he would never say in person, and I am sure regrets saying.

For me personally, I know the mistaken things I’ve said, and the comments I have made are not the kindest or most thought-provoking, but that is who I was–and part of who I became and who I will be.

Youth is a part of the practice of attempting to perfect this thing we call life.

We are allowed the opportunity as youths to have a sense of innocence and ignorance to do things that later on we realize were boneheaded, but if you don’t experience these moments, you will never live life.

So as much as Penn probably shakes his head at that role way back in ’82, I am sure he has laughed at it knowing he feels like his youth was never wasted.


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