On Slowing Down and Growing Up

There used to be an infinity of time between June and August. Now the days are short and cramped–even more cramped than last summer, with 40-hr work weeks and only one day off every other week or so. My heart has been equal parts happy, cranky, tired, and content these last few months. I’m thankful for one last summer at home with my family, but I’m tired of the constant working and saving and feeling not-so-slightly lonely. I wonder if, perhaps, I haven’t let myself slow down at all this summer because I don’t want to be reminded of how much my life here in Virginia has changed. My closest high school friends have all either gotten married or moved away. Half of the artwork is gone from my bedroom walls and stored in a garage in Illinois. My sister and cousins also work most days, and we rarely can coordinate days off anymore. My boyfriend fluctuates being between 800 and 1,100 miles away. ┬áIn a lot of ways, I expected to come home and find nothing had changed when, in reality, home had changed right along with me this past year.

My dad likes to analogize feeling comfortable in a place with the way he feels in our house late at night. When we first moved into our house twelve years ago, it was difficult to get a cup of water from the kitchen in the dark. Without knowing our way around, we’d bump into things in a klutzy effort to maneuver an un-memorized mental map.

I think our minds have maps like that too. I have a map of my life in my Virginia etched in stone into my memory. And this summer, I’ve felt very disoriented finding my way through it. In the beginning of July, I made a one-week trip back to my school campus and felt the remaining lines of that map shatter. The moment I walked back into the places where I started re-learning who I am, it became almost impossible to re-find who I was. I felt very torn-up. And shreds of the paper me were still in Virginia, glued together to prove that I have a life there. Paths and memories and moments and plans. But other shreds had been left in Illinois and I found them scattered around the theater, lying in the grass, swept under the stairs. They were the pieces of me that had held together through hard things and yet were left unpacked at the end of the school year because there was no room for them back home.

These last two days, I’ve been cranky beyond reason. I think a part of that has to do with a need to NOT reconcile things. The need to convince myself that “This is a Phase” and “Things Will Go Back to Normal Soon” and “Just Wait it Out and See.” I want to keep believing that things haven’t changed and that the photos on my wall of eighteen-year-old me with thick brown glasses and chartreuse pants could have still been taken just yesterday.

But I know I’ll be twenty-one at the end of this summer. That’s a very, very adult age. I’ll be a very, very non-child person. I’ll never be eighteen again, or nineteen, or twenty and I’ll have to keep accumulating the new changes of each of those years as they pile on top of each other.

There are so many beautiful new lines etched into the map of home for me. There’s home in the arms of the truly wonderful man that I’m more in love with than I could have ever imagined. There’s home in the community of creative and raw people who have embraced me in the face of all of my bald spots. And there’s still home in the sometimes-comfy, sometimes-tense interactions within my own family, and the way they will always tell me Good Night and Good Morning and I Love You day in and day out.

Yes, the map still exists, it’s just changed. It’s just so, so changed. And I’m starting to realize that there is no time to re-learn or re-memorize. Because the moment I adjust, it changes again. And it’s awkward and uncomfortable that way, but it’s also wild.

-Rachel