The days wheeled past like a flock of starlings, and suddenly 2021 is two-thirds over. To celebrate the newly abandoned month, I play august by Taylor Swift on repeat. As I grow older, I find that Taylor is correct about most things, and she’s correct about this: summer slips away like a moment in time, sips away like a bottle of wine. Here I am, blinking into the mid-afternoon sunshine, trying to recall how I got here.
It’s my birthday today. It does not feel too different from any other days, except my boyfriend flew up from Georgia to see me. Later, I’m hosting a party for Boston-area friends.
When I was younger, birthdays were very special. Another year around the sun, another year swept away in diary pages and used calendars. Another year until I acquired the sweet freedoms bestowed upon older kids and adults.
But now I also wish to be held in a wiser person’s arms, safe in the knowledge that somebody else will take care of my life.
This is my theory about age: we never really grow up, only outwards, like the rings of a tree. Somewhere inside of me, I am still the same seventeen-year-old who failed her driver’s test, the same fourteen-year-old who got dumped by her first girlfriend. Sometimes, I revisit those younger versions of myself. I miss them.
Time is a train making infinite loops and there is only one way to leave the ride. That’s not an interesting insight, but if I’m not careful, I overlook it. There are many days where I spend my minutes like poker chips at a casino. I forget I am squandering something real.
I started dating my boyfriend nearly three years ago. Soon, we should either agree to get married or break up. We have started this conversation many times but we never finish it.
I used to be a very decisive person. Growing up, I always knew what restaurant I wanted to eat at or what dress I wanted to wear. Even when it came to selecting colleges, it was not difficult to choose MIT. But lately, I dawdle. My calendar is full of potential classes because I’m considering double-majoring in computer science. I’m considering staying for a master’s degree. To decide is to walk through a door that will slide shut behind me. I have never been as noncommittal as I am right now, or perhaps this is the first time I’ve truly appreciated the consequences of my choices.
There are many things I wish I knew when I was seventeen. I wish I knew to take real analysis and abstract algebra; to choose a different dorm; to ask for academic help. But lately, it occurred to me that if I had started my first year of college knowing everything I know now, that would have ruined all the fun.
Here is how I am different now: I forgive more easily. I’ve learned that resentment only poisons yourself. I am less preoccupied with manifesting an illusion of success and more interested in building something real. I now know that even the best people you’ll ever meet may only cross your path for a moment, and that is still beautiful.