The Thing About Growing Up

Flickr, Nathan Congleton
Flickr, Nathan Congleton

Here’s the thing about growing up.

You suddenly realize one day that you are forgetting. You’re forgetting things that you used to hold near. You realize you forgot how your best friend sounds when she sings. Or you walk in on a little girl in the bathroom and see your child self there, see your adult self reflected in her eyes and you scramble for words to soothe her embarrassment over leaving the door unlocked.

You are forgetting things, but you’re clinging to others.

You realize that you are only getting older, that your time on the earth with people is finite. It never seemed finite before. You start to cry watching a man and his granddaughter and realize that you need to give your own father a grandchild before he dies, even though he’s not even old. You start to think of your life not as your own but as a part of others’. Every single thing you do impacts someone and as you grow up, you really start to get it. It’s hard to fathom until you hit that exact moment.

You are realizing things every day. Big things. Huge things. Tiny things. You are making yourself into a more fully-formed person than you were at 21, or 10. Some of these things are incredibly painful, horrible, sad. Some of them break your heart and some of them are beautiful.

The poem he wrote for me years ago, I lost it. I have certain passages committed to memory but the whole thing was erased and not even iCloud or Facebook messages can restore it to me. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever read. I remember reading it at 22 and thinking that this was what the world was going to be like forever – the parties, the champagne, the friends who stayed on your couch until the morning broke. And it was, and it wasn’t. So far, nothing has been quite what I thought.

I wanted to love you so fiercely, to possess you entirely, to crawl inside your skin and beat your heart. But I couldn’t – I couldn’t give it up that completely. I never wanted to, I guess.

And yet, though I knew you being unfaithful to me would’ve killed me, I did it to you willingly that summer. There were no strange forces at work. It was a decision I made and would probably make again. It was the first time I felt like an adult, that day that I did what I did. And I don’t feel guilty about it, not really, which should probably prove to me that I never really loved you.

I realized it that Sunday, the day I saw my child self reflected in that little girls’ eyes. I thought, “She would never have made that mistake. She knew what she wanted.” I had known what I wanted, back then, but I was too afraid to say it. And I didn’t get what I wanted – the great big expanses of Alone – for almost two years. I never really loved either of you, and it took me so many years and pages and drunk and teary moments to figure that out. But that’s just a part of growing up, isn’t it? TC mark

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