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.



4 thoughts on “On Slowing Down and Growing Up

  1. Rachel, I can’t tell you what reading this post meant to me. I’m home for the summer – probably my last – with my family, and “college me” has been washed and boxed away since May. My work week is anywhere from 45-50 hours long, but because I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had to face how uprooted and disjointed I feel… and I know going back to school in August won’t magically fix that. As someone who longs to feel rooted and known, it’s jarring to accept that each part of my life is now its own micro chasm, as unable to mix with the other as water with oil. Your words about having no time to re-learn or re-memorize are particularly poignant, because that is itself the worst struggle. Each phase is mingled with intermittent hellos and goodbyes. Nothing seems permanent; nothing right now is permanent. It reminds me of Rochester’s words to Jane in Jane Eyre: “No sooner have you got settled in a pleasant resting place, than a voice calls out to you to rise and move on, for the hour of repose is expired.”

    This is a novel of a comment, but I want to thank you for your sincerity. It’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one struggling to make sense of these transitions.

    God bless you,

  2. I love this post so, so much. Thank you for writing it! I’ve been going through a very similar situation in the past few months. This summer has been very off for me. My family and I left my childhood home (which included so many ups and downs we stayed with friends for five weeks), my cousin moved several states away, my best friend’s mother passed away, I’m going into high school. I haven’t felt like myself because everything I know about my typical childhood summers is gone. I’ve struggled to learn to welcome change, but I have to remind myself that I can always look towards God, the one person in my life who is *always* constant.

  3. My goodness, your thoughts just seem to echo the exact way that I think I’ve been feeling lately too. I am having trouble finding myself among my friends anymore. I feel disconnected with them, and I feel disconnected from a lot of things mostly. I guess growing up does that to you and you find that maybe you just need to sit down, take a deep breath, and just let it be. It’s so hard though!

  4. I needed to read this today. My best friend, and the first of my friends to do so, got married last night. I was a bridesmaid and it was one of the best, most emotional, most heart wrenching nights of my life. I’ve been riding out the emotional waves all day today and I needed your words to steady me and remind me that I am not alone and that change is ok. Thanks Rachel. :)

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