It is ironic, really, how we’re always in such a hurry to progress to the next stage of our lives but when that day comes and we pause and take stock, we start to realise that we’re living, we’ve lived – and it was good, it was bad, it’s been beautiful and messy and everything in between – but it’s passing out of our reach now. It’s happening or it happened… Whether we are present enough to be cognisant of the fact or whether we’ve simply allowed ourselves to be frozen in our past (or future).
The sad part is, our lives become a race right from the time we are young children. After all, most of us rush to grow up and then, once we hit adulthood, we wish we could turn back the time… Just a day, a month, five years… That’s all we ask, it’s not too much, is it?
It still surprises me but nowadays, I often catch myself remininscing about the good ol’ days when I watch primary school children dash around a playground. I smile at them, at that innocent state they are momentarily caught up in… and very gradually, that smile turns into a perplexing, overwhelming sensation of quiet pity. So many of them don’t know what life is… they don’t know how hard it can be. Not yet at any rate – but in time, they will.
Even so, protected by that secret blissful state of oblivion, they tell anyone who will listen that they want to be Superman or a doctor when they grow up… but how about just being children for a while longer, little ones? You’ll grow up soon enough but, in the meantime, I feel you should know: it’s pretty good, childhood… take it from me.
These days, I don’t think about the time when I was seven or eleven with regret, like: “Damn, if only I had grown up faster…” Instead, I find myself thinking: “Gosh, I wish I hadn’t been in quite such a hurry to be where I am now.”
It’s not that growing up is terrible either, in fact, I believe it is a hard but ultimately necessary and strangely beautiful part of life… It’s just that sometimes I miss that carefree innocence, that surety that other people would be there to fix my mistakes, even if I lied or broke things. Nowadays, I often have to fix my own problems (and those of others too), and I don’t always know how to mend the broken bits… and quite frankly, it can all be very exhausting.
So don’t wish you were a grown-up before it’s your turn to be one… Between you and me, I think we’re vastly overrated, for as British singer, James Morrison, gently croons in his song ‘Once When I Was Little’, in which he touchingly reflects on his younger days and his ability to “believe more then”: “…so here comes the next one, next in line, stay as young as you can for the longest time, ’cause those days flew by like a breeze just passing through, once when I was little.”
It’s honestly one of my favourite songs because it’s so true and more than a little sad as a result because it reminds me of how little I appreciated my childhood when I was an actual child.
I never hated school… I was one of those nerdy children, who excel academically when they have a mind to. Still, I loathed homework, it really was the bane of my school-going years (well, that and athletics… but that’s a can of worms I can leave well alone now) but even so, I sometimes wish the most pressing thing about my afternoons was still having to complete my homework at the kitchen table before suppertime as oppose to getting home late and still having to cook and clean and generally being too drained to do much more than veg out in front of a screen… and I know that I don’t even have to deal with a quarter of what I shall have to juggle if given another five or ten years!
Don’t even get me started on love… Oh, how I wish the hardest part about that still entailed knowing whether a crush knows about you existence or whether they’ll smile at you tomorrow at school. These days, I forget to smile, I just look at strangers with a feeling of growing anxiety and wonder if that’s my future right there in their eyes… and the part that scares me most is sometimes I know they’re thinking the exact same thing as I.
Whether we admit it or not, both as individual and collective grown people, we’re all looking for love… but usually all we find is another person to fruitlessly expend precious emotion on, yet another promising person with whom to emotionally beat up our already battered hearts.
So yes, the girl or boy in your Grade 8 class might have a crush on your best friend and it sort of sucks – but it gets a lot worse… so ‘enjoy’ that tender agony while it lasts, babe.
I hope your heart gets broken on a few silly boys and/or girls long before you really plunge into the frustratingly vague so-called ‘dating world’… Break it good and hard, cleave it in two if you must – but don’t allow yourself to stay stuck in that space forever and don’t dwell on it years after as I have because in five or even three years, seriously, none of it will matter… and nor will he/she.
Instead, by then, you’ll be as hopeless and conflicted as the rest of us, caught up in a kind of maddening space wherein you pit ‘trying to find your life partner’ against ‘trying to decide if you actually want one after all’… and that’s before you even add ‘trying to forget all the people you seemingly mistakenly care(d) for along the way’ to the equation and before too long, your love triangle has turned into a love square.
Whatever happens though, be in the moment, take as much good from it as you can and give nothing back. Sure, it might not last and hell, yes, it might end horribly – but look at it this way: you had something (even if you never quite figure out what…), you felt something for someone and that, if nothing else, matters.
You’re going to regret so much… but I honestly hope you take the time out to be sad or angry when that regret starts to creep up upon you. I hope you feel your back as it’s pressed up against a wall before you eventually cave underneath that weight and slide to the floor in a fit of dry sobbing. I hope you never want to think about them ever again, yet repeatedly do so in spite of yourself.
May you meet someone a thousand times better for you someday or you’ll work out for yourself that being single isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be… In my experience, there are far worse things in this world.
I also hope you appreciate your struggle through school and even college, but most especially high school… If you think people are mean in high school, just wait till you are out in the big world, sweetheart. Then it’s no longer merely a ‘phase’ they’re going through or some lousy, misguided self-defence mechanism, it’s a means of survival, a way of life.
You’ll realise, too, that for every nasty pair of individuals you chance upon, there are two friendly or concerned ones around the next corner… You know, just to even out the odds a little.
Strangers will offer helping hands, bless you with small change when you’re a few cents short and be the champions for good when you least expect it or your trust in humanity is in its most dire straits. Look out for them and, if you can, be one such person too… Goodness knows, the world needs a few more of ’em, I’ve heard they’re in rather short supply.
Above all though, I hope you occasionally pause to take it all in. Abandon yourself to a fun, sleepless night out with your friends before you graduate and head off in different directions… Not just geographically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually too. Revel in your ‘mud pie’ days and dusty childhood adventures. Learn to wait for the right one… instead of just the next (available or willing) one.
I hope you do this right throughout your life, from your carefree childhood days to your trying teenage years till you get to where I am now: the troubling twenties.
Because, you see, just lately I’ve begun to realise that I’ve let so much pass me by. I haven’t stopped to enjoy as much as I should have or to properly confront problems as they’ve hit me. I’ve put them off, thinking I’ll get round to them another day… I’ll ask you that silly but somehow important question the next time we’re together, I will tell people that enough is enough next week or ask for help when next I need it but just not today.
I guess I have been inclined to procrastinate when it comes to living my life… I put life, real life, off until it’s convenient or more bearable but I see now that is something we should never ever do.
Don’t put it off, time waits for no man, woman or child… Do and say the things you feel whilst you have the chance. Apologise before a momentary mistake turns into a lifelong regret. Be an active and willing participant, an avid player even, in this crazy game called Life before it’s ‘Game Over’ for us.
Going forwards, I plan to have one hell of a good time in the moments when life is great and, in the times when it’s not, I’ll try to remember that someday my victories will be all the more wonderful because of every defeat, which I have had to face before I could eventually ‘come good’ as they say…
If I could go back in time and tell my ten- or even sixteen-year-old self these very same things, I would… but I’d also tell her that every experience, whether good or bad, has been worth it. They’ve crafted me into who I am today and have: helped me to grow, taught me to love and schooled me in the best possible ways.
I’ve seriously learnt a lot since I was eighteen… and I’ll learn a hell of a lot more before I hit twenty-five but maybe this time, in the next three years or so, I’ll pause and take a moment to recognise just how far I have come before I’m onto the ‘next big thing’.
I might even breathe (it’s apparently necessary and good) and accept that I still have a long way to go and that’s okay because I’ve come so much further than I ever envisioned I would and then, somewhere in between all the responsibilities, messy mistakes and goodness knows what else, I’ll remind myself that right here, right now, these days… they are, in fact, the good ol’ days.
Maybe before our time on this wonderful earth is up or the next critical stage of our life has come and gone, we be present in our present time. Our past has brought us this far and even though the future is as uncertain and ever-changing as the wind, we have to trust that our ‘here-and-now’ is exactly where we need to be… In this moment – and all the moments still to come.
So whether you’re in your final year of college like me, working a nine-to-five job or still petulantly doing Grade 5 homework at your parents’ kitchen table, just be there, be wholly present while it’s happening and stop wishing you were somewhere else… These are the good ol’ days and you’re exactly where you’re meant to be, even if you can’t see it… yet.
Posted from WordPress for Android by T.A.Ryan