I hope no one under the age of twelve is reading this. I’m not going to talk about anything lewd, but what I am going to reveal is worse than Santa not being real. (Oof, hope no one under six is reading this…)
To be completely honest with you, I have not enjoyed growing up. I’ve enjoyed the idea of growing up. I remember sitting in the front of a blue Isuzu Trooper when I was fourteen with my friend Mary. My brother was about to turn sixteen, and from the front seat of that never-to-be-owned-by-him SUV, there was nothing so long as the years it would take me to go from fourteen to sixteen. Having studied philosophy and grown up with crazy people, I can look back on that scene and make somewhat heartbreaking assumptions. At fourteen I saw sixteen as something wholly different. There would be a new me, and I think I hoped that she would be better, different, maybe less scared. I didn’t want to drive, I wanted the freedom and “cool” of sitting behind the wheel of a car. I imagined friends piled in, headed nowhere with the radio on and warm sun for miles.
What’s heartbreaking is that those things did happen. My friends did pile in and we did head nowhere with the radio on. But I didn’t notice it. I wanted to be 18. I wanted to be in college, out from under my parents, away from my oppressive school, catty social scene, and mind numbing academics. When I was 18 I knew that things would be different. I’d be different. I’d go off to college, be carefree, go to football games, drink on weeknights. College would look good on me. Suddenly I would have the freedom to learn what I wanted– to be treated like an adult. And all those things did happen. But, again, I didn’t notice.
And so on. And so on. And so on.
As it turns out, we don’t change as we grow older. We simply age. Eventually some things rise to the top and other things float out of existence, but inside of us– inside of me– we are the same. We gather tools for coping and engaging; we work hard to develop patience and kindness, but we still have soft spots that no matter how old we get, they remain. Five, ten, fifty years after our wounds have healed over, they still sting when someone mentions them. We forget our fragility because in the face of the complexity and complications that overwhelm our lives, we assume that we are strong and mature. We build an aura of age and wisdom that fools another generation into believing that with age comes answers. It’s only by living that we all come to discover that with age comes hard and painfully won understanding that this fear and vulnerability could possibly last a lifetime. We too will one day look through wrinkled eyes and wonder, “where did I go? I am here.” And nothing, and everything will have changed.
And so it is that great writers, thinkers, and ponderers before me have implored the listening masses to do but one thing: stop. It’s the lesson we all know, but fail to comprehend. There is nothing waiting tomorrow that is not possible today. There is nothing about the future that is not tied to the past. We are the beauty of our choices and the consequence of their destruction, and that gives us great power. We have the opportunity to cultivate humanity within ourselves and towards ourselves. We can not only forgive others, but forgive ourselves. It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to be unsure. It’s okay to walk away.