I’ve been struggling to feel my age lately. We moved my little brother into college last weekend; by "we" I mean my divorced parents, my husband and myself, and by "moved" I mean I carried one plastic shelf up three flights of stairs because we got there too late. By "my little brother" I mean the boy who, though trailing me by five years, outgrew me long ago. While standing in his small dorm room, I started to wonder when he grew so much. Is this still my little brother? The one I used to shove out of the way so I could take over the entire back seat of my parents’ Nissan Pathfinder on family vacations? Is this the same boy who used to run around in Ninja Turtle pajamas and who had the biggest collection of Micro Machines in the world? It is. This is my brother, and somewhere along the line he grew up.
It’s strange how life sometimes gives you a reality check. I feel like the past 13 years are a blur. I suppose I will always think of my brother as a 5-year-old, spying on me from his pop-up tent with the periscope, but now I feel as if the world is just whizzing past, and I am standing still. The reality check comes when I realize the world will always be spinning and I can never stop time. When I was little, I longed to be a grown-up. I always wanted to see what was just over the next horizon, even if I was disappointed when I saw what was there. I have spent the first 20 or so years of my life looking forward, and all of a sudden I’ve become reminiscent and nostalgic, looking backward as I try to hold on to the past.
My high school class had its five-year reunion a few weeks ago. There were people there who I had gone to school with for more than half of my life. It was like a bad flashback to high school, except we were all a little older and a little fatter. The night was filled with awkward conversations and fake smiles, and everyone stayed in their old groups. Some people changed, and some people didn’t. The part I’m struggling to grasp is why life has to change. Why time and growth and moving on? Why aging and loss and gain? Sometimes I feel that I want to go back to the time that was happiest for me and just live there forever.
I’m not a big Roy Orbison fan, but he wrote a song about growing up. He said:
Your life begins when teardrops start, a broken toy, a broken heart
All of these things are just a part of growing up
From kiddy cars to walking shoes from lullabies to lonely blues
Somehow you never quite get used to growing up
I know I won’t. I’ll never get used to this growing up thing, but I do have to remember to appreciate all that is before me, all the joy that is to come. My brother is hardly the little boy I will always see him as. He has grown into a funny, intelligent, caring person who I love very much. I am very proud of him. Right now he is so excited about this stage in his life that I doubt he realizes the magnitude of this point. I never felt like I was growing up while it was happening. I still don’t feel that I can come to terms with it now, but I am trying.
Orbison’s song also said, “And when you’re wise enough you’ll know, you’re growing up.” Maybe I’m a little bit wiser now. Maybe the realization that I am growing up, no matter how much I try to fight it, just means that I’m on the right track. This realization must just be part of growing up. It is part of acknowledging what you’ve learned and putting it to good use. It is letting go and pushing forward. It is facing the resistance we all have to getting older and embracing the wisdom that is to come.