I think for a really long time adulthood felt like this nebulous, distant thing that I might never actually get to. Like it was always going to be that uncertain, far-off future that might after everything turn out to be imaginary. It felt a little like even though everyone told me that at some point I would grow up, I still was somehow unable to imagine a time when I wouldn’t be in school. Or, more accurately, I thought that when I finally did come face to face with adulthood that I would feel different. I would have somehow aged rapidly, have somehow grown in leaps in bounds in the last few years so that my brain would be programmed to think in terms of pantsuits and taxes and nine-to-five schedules. Well– I haven’t.
In one of my favorite movies, Father of the Bride, there is a scene at the beginning when Steve Martin’s character’s daughter returns home from studying in Italy to inform her parents that she is engaged. While Annie tells her parents the news at the dinner table, the camera shows us what Steve Martin feels like he is seeing– a nine-year-old pigtailed version of Annie explaining to her family that she met a boy and fell in love and is getting married. I feel a little like Steve Martin in this scenario, only I am looking at myself. I feel a bit like a little girl playing pretend–trying to look for real jobs, make important decisions, and decide where I want to live.
One of the reasons for this disbelief (some might go even so far as to say denial) might be partly due to my complex relationship to the concept of time and my propensity for crippling nostalgia, leading to a certain reluctance to age. It is difficult to believe that the parts of my life that have passed by are gone forever, are frozen permanently as something that happened a long time ago. Listening to adults refer to their childhoods as this sort of dream-like, far off thing is sort of how I feel when referring to my future. Is any of it even real? And how can I possibly have arrived at the point in my life where it is my turn to start referring to my childhood as some sort of lovely picture book tucked away on a shelf? I’ve already started forgetting names, forgetting faces, forgetting the order of events that took place in elementary and middle school. High school will go soon. I sometimes even look around myself in large groups while at college and realize that in ten years I won’t even remember that half of these people exist, that they will fade out of my consciousness until it is almost like they were never there at all. It claws at me in a desperate, wrenching way that I’m not sure it does at everyone–this knowing that certain things in life have already happened and there’s no way to go back to them, really. I have one year left, and then my childhood, already stretched in my mind to encompass these last few years that might not even belong to it, is officially over. There are so many things that are gone that I can never have back– the freedom to watch The Little Mermaid as many times as I wanted to when Robbie had just been born, ski practice in high school, Sandy, living with my entire family under one roof, playing pretend in the backyard because we didn’t have anything else to do, going up to Rangeley for two whole weeks at a time, Mom’s dinners every night, and so many more things that occasionally flit back to me and induce a little (or sometimes not so little) pang of nostalgia.
I suppose that this weakness for wistfulness or sentimentality or reminiscence lends me particularly to the kind of adulthood I have chosen to pursue, as uncertain and unstable as it may be– an adulthood where I am free to return, whenever and however I want, to any of those glimmering, far-away moments through writing. And in that way I like to think that they will never really be forgotten.