My whole life, I was always looking to the next phase. In elementary school, I always wanted to be in the next year: if I were in first grade, I wanted to be in second, if I was in second, I wanted to be in third, so on and so forth. I remember being about 10 and my mom had taken me to Lake Goodwin on a hot summer day, and I looked over at all the high schoolers and thought, “If I could just get to 16, everything would be perfect.” Then…I hit 16…and realized that 16 was just not quite 18. Hit 18, went to college, and all I could think about was life without homework, cafeteria food, and life without being really poor. Then I graduated, and I experienced life without homework and cafeteria food, but I experienced a new level of poor. Now, I could drive, I had gone to college and graduated, and was in this real world I was always daydreaming of as a child, but it just didn’t quite look the same as it did in my head as I stared up at my baby blue canopy bed all those years as a child.
Despite always wanting to move forward, I did have these moments that I realized that time I wanted to move on from so quickly wasn’t all that bad after all. I couldn’t wait to get out of elementary school so I could say I was a junior higher, but then I got there and realized the kids were meaner, school was harder, and junior high is one of the most awkward times of anyone’s life. I had the thought that elementary school was kind of easy peasy and a bit fun and I had wished it away…then I wished to be in high school.
One of the more obvious and emotional realizations of what my mom would always say to me, “Don’t wish your life away,” was when I came back home after my first semester in college in California. I loved being away, I loved freedom, and I loved the adventure of it all, but when I came home, back to that place where I had done all that wishing, I realized at that moment, I really wanted time to just stand still. Actually, I realized I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back to where I’d wake up in the morning to mom cooking breakfast for us kids, as I sat on the couch with my oversized Coke a Cola shirt of my dad’s that I loved to sneak out of his bottom drawer and wear because it had this special smell that erupted out of the dresser every time I open it. I would pull out one of the shirts and run down stairs and sit on the couch with the shirt pulled over my knees, my arms wrapped around them, and I’d watch cartoons, taking turns sniffing the shirt and sniffing the Norwegian pancakes my mom was making for me in the kitchen. Just as we would be finishing up breakfast and some good old fashion little kid sibling teasing, my dad would walk in from fishing and show us the gross slimy trophy he’d caught and then right there, he’d whip out his knife and start filleting it. He’d always try to get one of us to eat the eggs, or the silvery skin, and we’d all freak out, and then the house would be full of a different smell that reminded me of my dad: dead raw fish.
(My older brother Drew, myself, and my new baby sister Devoney. Very very happy childhood.)
That first night home from college, I was lying in my bed thinking of those simple times and how amazing they were and how I wish that I could go back and just sit on my dad’s lap and feel like everything was okay, or lay my head on my moms lap as she’d so lovingly stroke my hair and tell me she loved me (technically, this scenario still happens). I was lying in my room that I turned 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and started to cry at the realization that all those years were gone and maybe not appreciated for what they were. I slowly opened my door, walked the 2 feet it took me to get to my parents bedroom and with a sob, climbed in between my mom and dad as they slowly came back awake and tried to figure out what was going on. I just remember crying, “I don’t want to grow up!” My mom moaned her sympathetic moans that make you feel like no one else in the world could care more than she does, and my dad tickled my back in the soothing way he did when I was little and I’d say, “tickle my back datty, tickle by back.” We didn’t have a long conversation about the realities of life, my dad just said, “You spent your whole life wanting to grow up and now you are.” I slept between my mom and dad that night for the first time in probably 17 years.
You would think a moment like this would bring some perspective, but then I headed back to “real life” at college and rushed out of there as soon as I could. I took 45 credits/9 classes, both semesters my senior year to graduate and not have to go back. The real world had to be better than this…
The real world was one harsh reality after another of never having enough money, hating jobs, and real life scary and sad things happening that never made sense. I often find myself thinking of college and how amazing it was and how I didn’t even know it. How there is never a time in your life that you can wear whatever you want, stay up till all hours of the night, and eat fast food multiple times a day (although if you know me well, you’d probably say I just described my current life…). College really was pretty great, and I rushed that and wished it away.
I say all of this because I have found myself wishing away my current status and desperately trying to move into the next phase. I find myself seeking a career that is more stable and wanting to get married and have babies and do all the things I haven’t done yet. Sometimes I get deeply saddened at the fact that I am not at this place, and then, last night, in this, what I can really only explain as an ambienesque (that’s for you Wesley) state of mind, all the times I had wished away came flooding back to me and I had to remind myself that before long, I will not be able to sleep in till noon (or noon thirty), I will not be able to jump in my car whenever I want and shop for hours, and will not always not hate wearing a bikini, cut off shorts, and high heels. I had this sort of flash forward of sitting at a desk, tired with ratty hair, wearing khakis that create multiple butts where they’re not suppose to, and drifting off into thoughts of my current status and wishing I hadn’t wished this time away. I am almost 27, and after rushing every pivotal time in my life forward, I am reminding myself to stop, smell the Norwegian pancakes and enjoy the now. Weddings, babies, and all things adult will come, but I will never have this moment again.