It's a cold April morning. I'm at home, the only one awake in my house.
This is the house I've lived in for the past eleven years. I know it better than any other. It has seen me through my many stages of young adulthood; through my first and second boyfriend; through years of learning and exploration and discovery. At the end of this summer, we will be leaving this house for the smaller one next door. My room will be smaller, because I only live here for a few months a year now. Soon, it will only be weeks out of the year.
I'm not sad about moving, but I am sad. I'm sad about the changes that have been happening slowly over the past few years, without me even noticing them. I'm sad to look around and see, suddenly, that I've grown up. I am three years into my first degree. Three years into a loving, successful, stable relationship. Three years into a kind of half-unfurled independence, where I buy my own plane tickets and no longer have my mother proof-read my resumé, but still come “home” between working. And what makes me more sad, what truly feels like it is breaking my heart, is the knowledge that within a few years, this won't be coming “home” anymore. I will have my own home. Probably on a different continent, far away from the vast majority of those I love most.
I talked to my beautiful and wise friend about this sadness. She lives a life like mine: young and adventurous, unfurling miles and timezones away from her parents.
“Are you scared of moving on?” I asked.
“Sometimes profoundly,” she answered. “What scares me most is the idea of my parents dying and me realizing that I missed so many large and small moments of their lives. And of course, they will have missed mine.”
She continued: “But sometimes I am not scared. I am least scared when I think about how exciting my future is. How it becomes more unique every day as new things are added on. How when I am old, I will have this beautiful story I have lived of love, suffering, acceptance, adventure, and compassion.”
Those words captured exactly what I am, and have been, feeling about growing up for so long. I am so very lucky to grow like this; to unfurl in new places of the world, to make “home” for myself wherever I am. How very lucky I am to grow up at all, when it is a privilege not given to everyone my age.
But, God, does it hurt. Does it ache when I have to say goodbye to my parents and my brother yet again, knowing there are only so many small goodbyes left before the big one. Before I move away. Before I marry and have children. Before eventually, the first of us faces our final goodbye.
Stuck on this side of it, crying in my living room at the feeling of time passing by, I struggle. I struggle to accept that these are the consequences of the opportunities I have been given and the choices I have made. I struggle to accept that this pain is a necessary by-product of aging.
But I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this. I know that this is a pain that my parents have felt, and theirs before them. I know that this is a pain that I will one day feel again in a very different way, when I watch my children grow up without a care in the world as to how quickly time goes by.
And I know, as my friend does, that at the end of this grand, unexpected, unforeseeable adventure of a life, this pain will only be a small and necessary thread in the beautiful tapestry of love and growth I will have lived. And when the ache gets too much, that is what I try to hold on to.