The great sadness isn’t that youth is wasted on the young. No, what is really sad is that old age is wasted on the old! When you’re young, regardless of your mistakes, you have the time and the opportunity to do it over.
If you make a mistake when you are young, it’s like correcting an essay before you turn it in to the teacher. And if you can’t erase what you have done, you can at least correct the spelling, change the font or the colors. Once you reach a certain age you no longer are limited to the essay, you’re writing a book. That’s a lot harder to re-write. It takes more out of you.
Besides, you aren’t turning it in to the teacher. You are the teacher. You should know better, not make stupid mistakes, not need to erase and begin again. And if it’s a long book, not just a short story, there are so many corrections to make, or that you would like to make. And of course, so much of it will be fiction.
So what starts out to be a short paragraph now covers many pages. It may be that when you began you had no idea where you were going, but now, as you get older, you should be able to read the timetables, the road signs and maps, and know where you are headed before you get there. Time to stop and change direction, take a detour, make side trips. Still, when you get to the end, there you are. Your manuscript is heavy, it has many words, but is it a "good read?"
You can fill your book with a lot of short stories, a collection of essays, even just paragraphs and one-liners, but even so, the words will tell the story of your life. If only you could know how it would read when you began, would you write it differently?
There is often real tragedy in the young mis-spending youth. But it might better if we didn’t have to waste aging on the old.