The word bittersweet can be no better defined than through the simple act of growing up.
As a child I wanted nothing more than to grow up. Through my college years I had but one goal: to be older than I was. As a small girl I wanted to be old enough to understand, old enough to do it myself, old enough to be the boss. I detested authority, blatantly ignored the advice of my elders. (I was completely unaware that the becoming wise was a product of listening and observing.)
I wanted to be sixteen so that I could drive myself wherever I wanted. (Which, as it turns out, was no where. I simply didn’t want to be under the thumb of anyone.) I wanted to move away to college so that I could eat whatever I wanted, go to bed whenever I chose, and act however I saw fit. I was going to cuss like a sailor, get tattoos all over my body, sleep with whomever I felt like… Life as a grown up was going to be unimaginably wonderful.
And then it came.
There are nights that I am walking silently through the city that I now call home. Perhaps I’m thinking of the bills that I am now responsible for, the relationship that am a part of, or the job that both I depend on and depends on me. As I wind through the sidewalks that are such a convenient part of my home, on a perfect night that is rare in a city that oscillates between the bitter cold and hated humidity, I am struck by a familiar smell. It is the cool smell of grass. It smells like the end of the day, like a silent peacefulness that can only happen when both heaven and earth, nature and man, decide it is time to slide calmly into the night.
When I smell that familiar smell I am consumed by such great sadness that my body begins to ache. I inhale and I am taken back to the summers I spent at camp. I am so young, so happy, and so wishful. I see my young self, and though I know she wants desperately to be who I am now, I cannot help but look at her with a heart of sadness. I want to tell her to keep laughing, keep running, and keep loving. I want her to stop wishing for the new school year, hoping for a reinvention. I want to tell her that eventually boys will like her, and some of the awkwardness will go away. I want to promise her that her best friend will always love her. I want to tell her the stories that take away the anxiety and fear.
There so many things I want to tell that girl in my memory. I want her to know the truth about growing up. I want her to know that it is wonderful, but not worth wishing for. It comes without wishing and hoping, rushing or wanting. It comes all on its own. And when it does she will be walking down a twisted sidewalk, in a city that she now calls home, wishing that for just a moment she could be there again.
I smell that smell and I cannot help but be sad because I know we move in only one direction. Endlessly forward.