I woke up the morning after my high school graduation to find a number of discordant thoughts tumbling around my newly minted high school graduate brain: Is life really a series of letting-go moments? I feel old but I know I’m still so very young. Time is flying but I still have all the time in the world. I’m waiting for my life to start but it’s already begun. And there I was, lying in bed slowly turning the page of a narrative not yet long enough.
My morning drives to Spruce Creek High School were often plagued by my uncertain internal monologue and the question of if this – all of it, in its entirety, was growing up or giving in? Was this cowardice or bravery? I could barely tell what the paths going forward were, let alone the righteous and best one for me. But I suppose that’s the beauty of perception really – it’s what’s seen but not truly felt.
There is a strange sense of gravitas that goes along with graduating high school, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. In our society, a high school graduation is seen as a watershed moment on one's trek towards adulthood, a gateway to a nebulous era of student loans and college life.
My high school teachers and guidance counselors, along with most of the media surrounding me, has done its best to remind me that one day I will be on my own, cut off from the sanguine security of my American Girl-esque teal and lime green colored room and my third grade diaries covered with Lisa Frank stickers. They’ve tried to prepare me to be independent, pursue a lucrative career, and make regular mortgage payments.
I’ve known about these things for a while, and for the most part, I’ve accepted them as inevitable facets of adulthood.
What no one could have prepared me for though, was the way your roles change. How the script thrust into your infant hands is nothing like the edited final one clasped in your fingers addled by age. “Cute toddler” transitions from “Angsty Teenager” to “Working Class Hero” without an intermission, and before you know it, you lose the script altogether. You wander around the stage with bright lights in your eyes that make it hard to sleep and even harder to dream. And at some point, you even wonder if you’re supposed to be on stage at all. You’ll find yourself lost amidst moving furniture and costume changes during your different scenes.
Adults warn of the heartbreak and rejection and failure that come with age, but no one could have ever warned me that friendship and love aren’t permanent – that a once fervent “I love you” will be met with apathy and weeks will pass between forced conversations that used to come with ease. No one really warns you how you’ll try to cling to those places, the ones you used to fill, the semblance of youth and innocence hidden in spaces under pillow cases and tucked away in the loops of carefully scribbled cursive.
Nothing is certain in this life except the heavy curtain that will fall without any assurance that it will rise to a standing ovation -- or even a brief moment of applause -- at the end of the show. I don’t let myself think about this though. I perform, I always perform. I soldier on, because this is growing up, isn’t it?
The thing about “growing up”, in the proverbial sense, and being thrust into the world of subsidized loans and monthly payments on your car is that everything is the same, until suddenly it isn’t – it’s a strange feeling and often times it doesn’t sit right. Sometimes I’ll shut my eyes and so desperately want to pretend in twelve again, but there are lines around my eyes now and a heavy weight in my stomach and I am not twelve, nor will I ever be twelve again.
I start college in three weeks and my so called childhood doesn’t feel mine anymore. There are boxes full of things I’ve never seen and shelves filled with books I’ve never read. My journals are still in the box I left them in when I was fourteen, but I’m not ready to go back and read them, not quite yet.
It's wistful and melancholic, almost sadness but not quite. I am not particularly sad about where I am in life, and I certainly do not wish I was twelve again. It’s just hard to conceptualize that with every passing year I leave behind my childhood a little more, because soon it will be so far gone that I’ll struggle to remember. Soon I’ll be saying “back when I was 18” like it was a million years ago because it will feel that way – soon I’ll feel strange walking around in a city that I grew up in but left at 18, because I will have spent too much time somewhere else to still be able to call it my home.
This is not my home anymore, and it’s not my city. Ormond Beach is my city, but I don’t have a home there either. Somewhere between here and there are the last eighteen years of my life, and in between now and the next four are the choices I’ll make in college – and that’s terrifying.
Will the next four years be enough for the scene to change and stage to reset itself? Will I be able to recognize the next character I play? Will I be proud of her? I certainly hope I can, and I hope she makes the right choices.
I hope that twenty-five-year-old me will have a lot more things figured out than I do right now, but above all, I hope that she remembers how she got there. I don’t want to feel like a stranger in my own skin, and I don’t want to forget about 18 the way I seem to have 16.
I want to remember this journey and the script for my coming of age, even if it can’t stay forever – four years from now and four years after that. Perhaps it's then that I’ll truly understand how life is a series of letting-go moments and time really does fly – until there’s a wrinkle for every memory and the curtain closes.
Gurjar is a writer for The Millennial Times and will be attending the University of Florida to major in Biology while minoring in Philosophy.