During the four years I spent in the monastery (not as a novice but as a “child” – underage, hence not eligible to be formally received) I: learned icon painting, embroidery, sewing, Byzantine chanting, welcomed and got to know guests from Russia, Greece, France, but also our local writers, scientists, theologians, every day I could choose which book (from Dostoyevsky to Berdjaev) I would take with me to my cell and read, although even then I didn’t like to travel–still, I saw Trebinje and Herzegovina, Lake Skadar and the sea, helped when the nuns prepared clothes for the needy and met with them, learned to set a table for fifty and cook jam (not all by myself, of course) for one hundred and fifty people, learned to wake up at four in the morning without whining and make the bed before leaving the cell, learned to take care of myself and my clothes, bedding and things, learned the entire order of worship. Completed regular high school.
I think I was very lucky.
Never, even when my lifestyle changed completely, did I think that I “missed out on something” because I spent my early youth this way. On the contrary, the foundations laid then saved my life and sanity when I pushed myself into this dark world to the end.
If I regret it, it is only because it was the last period when both grandfather and grandmother were alive and when we could all have been together at home. I’m a little sorry that I didn’t spend more time with them then.
That’s my experience.
Please, don’t limit your children to the experience that society considers “normal”, open them to other perspectives, show them what they can meaningfully experience and learn, while they are still very young. Youth will pass eventually–it can never be “lived out to the full”. That is a fallacy. A person taught to “live their life to the full” will remain stuck in that way of thinking forever.
We have a narrowed view of youth that is relatively recent. And we force all young people, whatever their sensibilities, needs, desires, to be “like everyone else.”
It means – “rebellious”, always eager for “fun”, irresponsible, selfish, superficial. Because that’s what “youth” are like.
Youth is what one makes of it. Like any other age of life.
To this day, throwing up over a toilet in a club’s restroom doesn’t sound more attractive to me than the things I described above.