You have always found yourself fascinated by home videos of you as a child, the carefree curiosity you seemed to so easily carry as a chubby, dimpled toddler who did not think of Milestones or of Matter but simply of Moments upon Moments. You want to write and you want to create but you find yourself dejected, fearful that you will never be able to recapture the imagination you had as a five year old.
There is a psychological theory that says that time appears to move faster as we age because life is all about ratios. One year to a four year old may make up a quarter of her life, but a year to a middle-aged mother is but a 40th of the life she’s lived overall. Moments become more and more fleeting. You can’t stop time from lurching forward and you grow older and realize that your mind is just as foreign to you as anything else, but maybe that strangeness is something to embrace.
We talk about the wisdom of age and maybe no one wants to watch the lines etch into their own skin but sometimes we wish we could skip ahead and understand what it all meant without needing to deal with the frustrations of the clichéd ‘journey.’
With just shy of two decades under your belt, you somehow are already weary. You find yourself so easily frustrated by experience, by your naiveté, understanding that you will never truly understand until years later, and now you must simply hold tight and ride out the pleasure and pain because it is all about making important mistakes and it is also about Experience with a capital “E.”
The future is distorted by expectation, the past by the fallacies of our own memories, and the present simply by our simple struggle not to trip, to stay standing. Big events are never how we expect them to be. We tack an arbitrary significance to moments and milestones, not understanding at the time how they may or may not stay with us, shape us.
Like how your father dies and the mourning doesn’t feel so bad until months later, when you understand that the initial weeks were infused by a kind of anesthesia to cover the shock.
Or how when you lose the loft you grew up in, your childhood home you think you will think about it and miss it more than you do. You think the same thing about Berkeley when you leave, that changing schools may be the Right Thing, but that it will also be hard. It isn’t hard. You find yourself sliding in and out of places much more easily than those around you.
Or how you were always an anxious child but never expected it to build up and hit you as hard as it did that summer; how you never could fathom being someone entirely unable to pull yourself from bed in the morning, an existential depression pressing down on you from all sides. How you never believed that 5 mg daily of a serotonin reuptake inhibitor could pull you out of it, alive and stronger.
Or in the way your virginity seems inconvenient and identifying until you stand, without it, under the florescent lights of a dorm room bathroom in an over-sized t-shirt, feeling utterly unchanged.
Or how you have your heart broken for the first time and it is just as destabilizing and humiliating and cliché as you always expected it to be. But how you find yourself somewhat relieved though, if only slightly, to know you can feel and hurt in a way you didn’t know you could. That people don’t seem to be as ephemeral to you as places.
All these things happen to you the year you are eighteen and it isn’t until 2012 rolls in, until you still find yourself writing “11” at the ends of your dates still, that the only steady thing you know is your own heartbeat. You lose your baby teeth, your father, your childhood home and your innocence; you gain inches. You gain humility and you gain perspective. The world does not end beyond your peripheral vision, the way it did so simply when you were a child. Life doesn’t march in time to a metronome, and maybe sometimes the milestones come at you all at once. Growing up is hardly a linear function.