The Thing About Growing Up

You know the feeling of being far from a place you’ve been so real to you that you can’t imagine it’s really gone forever? That is what it feels like to grow up. You may be able to go back to the physical place, but it’s gone no matter how there it is. And time itself is this strange continuum that seems to be on your side until about your mid twenties when suddenly it becomes your worst enemy, pulling you further and further away from the security of your long lost home.

Some days I close my eyes and find myself, as if it was yesterday, sitting in gym class frustrated beyond belief for my inability to climb a rope or run a mile. I can taste the fall air as we would be forced through physical fitness testing, cold on my lungs, as I failed pretty much everything besides the flexibility test. I can smell the leather of my friend’s dad’s car as he drove us to dance class, the burn in my lungs as I chased a school bus down the street in the rain yet another morning of waking up late, the dizziness of being a child and spinning around fast looking at the ceiling in our empty dining room to entertain myself, or lying on the cold floor of our game room pressing start and go of my tapes in order to write down their lyrics. Some moments are crisp while many are a blur, but nonetheless the place feels so real that I can only imagine if I try hard enough I could find my way back to it, despite knowing that I never can.

It’s not that I had a wonderful childhood. I was miserable most of the time. I was bullied by my parents and my friends. I was hyperactive and annoying and constantly trying to figure out a way to fit in. I was lonely and bored and unable to handle my own many imperfections. But there I was safe and free all at the same time. And growing up means letting go of that person you once were, the place where you’ll never truly return. You might as well have blasted off to another planet a one-way trip because that’s life, shooting you fast towards the night stars, whether you’re ready for it or not.

I used to be terrified of death — I’d stay up all night and try so hard to imagine myself not existing for a moment, and I couldn’t find the feeling. In eleven days I turn 31 and I know that life is not forever. I have twenty years ahead of me of either/and a strong career or family, and time is ticking onwards as a little part of me hungers to return to that place I once took pity on myself and hid in my bedroom, looking out the window at the tall trees swaying in yet another storm.

There were things to, like stability, which used to scare me that suddenly are what I long for most of all. I think this is because I grew up with such a theoretically stable life (despite constant wars raging in my household which begged to question if the stability was a benefit or a curse) I wanted none of it when I left home. At seventeen I left for college in Chicago and never once considered returning back permanently. I was running ahead full force, faster than I ever had in those mile runs of the physical fitness testing, trying to find comfort in change, afraid to settle down, afraid to stop before I was ready.

Even now I’m restless in many ways, probably more than the average person, but I still need the stable base in which to build from. I’ve found that in my boyfriend who has been there with me for the past nine years. He’s level headed and calm and he has no desire to run away from stability like a man running from a loon wielding an AK47. With a childhood where he had never-married parents who didn’t know how to handle their accidental child, he is perfectly comfortable with a planted life. And, despite not knowing each other in our childhood, we can look in each other’s eyes and still see that person we once were. For a second I am able to transport back to my home, but locked up in the arms of someone who wasn’t forcing me into a box of something I’m not, jabbing at me at every opportunity. With him I have acceptance of the girl who never got that as a child. With him, despite being lightyears away from where I’ve been and can’t physically return, I’m more home than I ever was.

 

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