I’m 24 next month. You’d think that the kind of looking-back-on-life epiphanies would happen a little later, at least after 25, but as it seems, someone like me who happens to read a book and take it to heart, that is not the case.
I grew up attached at the hip to my mom, lounging on Saturday afternoons with my family, spending afternoons with a book upside down on my bed, and talking on the landline phone with my friends from school. I was almost always home, even in high school I never had a curfew because I didn’t really go anywhere. Life was pretty simple.
Sometimes it takes a few years before you really start to realize things are different. You go away to college, to summer camp, spend months at a time away from home. You meet a plethora of new people, with different opinions, viewpoints, cultures, colors and textures. You spend time in fellowship, in discussion, in heart-felt spilling on swings. You open up your heart to a whole world of new people, sights, smells, feelings, and ideas.
You grow and change as you go. You develop your own ideals and beliefs.
Then one day, you visit with your family that you have spent your entire life with, and something just feels…different.
You feel as if you’re looked at differently, as if something has changed while you’ve had your back turned. You know they still support, love, and are proud of you, but something just doesn’t feel as it should be.
It’s not the same as those days you spent in the corner of your aunt’s couch, laughing until tears came streaming down your face and your belly ached. It’s not the same as when you were a ten-year-old that would mostly intently listen to all of the conversations, and speak up when it was necessary. You look up and your old church dress and shoes are much too small, and will never be big enough again.
Some of my family I feel that I have grown closer to. Some I feel like they are painfully distant. It’s taken me until the past year to really understand and comprehend how much I love my family members, and how when you’re young and the world seems absolutely limitless how much you assume that they’re always going to be there, no matter what. Then old age, and illnesses and frailties come into play, and everyone keeps getting older, including yourself. And suddenly you have to face that someday, they won’t be there. And you have to face that something that maybe you didn’t notice before, that’s only come to light now. You have to take it into your hands, and figure it out, and take it away, and appreciate the people you love so fiercely in your heart, but maybe you don’t always show as well as you (or they) would like.
I think about all the people I love, the family I’ve known for my entire life, and the people who’ve only come relatively recently, and how much I care for them, and want them to know it, and want to spend a little more time making sure they do. I have friends I wish I knew better, and friends I haven’t talked to or seen in years but yet think about them all the time, and miss them immensely, but yet don’t really pick up the phone, or write a letter, or an email, or a Facebook post.
Essentially, real life hasn’t hit me in the way everyone says it will. Paying my bills, going to work for nine hours a day, enduring the stress and go-go-go of life, that’s not what really has hit me like a punch to the gut. What’s hit me for real life and growing up is how much my perspective has changed, and how much the people I’ve always had around me have changed, and handling the dichotomy of pursuing my own life, dreams, and goals, and being there with my family for the moments that I’ve always been present for. It feels like a constant battle in my head, and ninety percent of the time feeling like I’m not keeping the people happy that I want to.
Life is something that I still have quite a few years more to figure out. I just feel like I need to spend it wisely.