Growing up is complicated business. This is not a new discovery for myself as I’ve jammed ear buds filled with angst-y music or woken up in the middle of the night with searing growing pains in my legs, or sat on the lawnmower controlling what felt like the only thing in my life: several million subservient blades of grass, wondering if I will ever get to experience the big world out there, away from Greenbrier. I remember days of feeling like I couldn’t fit in my skin the way everyone else seemed to be doing so well, and sensing that the greatest mystery in life was how to blend in but also stand out. Growing up for me was like watching Lawrence of Arabia, a dull and overrated narrative that never ended. Then one day I woke up and realized that you can’t call yourself a kid anymore when you’re twenty-five and I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and cry over my youth. Take. Me. Back.
But it’s complicated. You can’t always know what you don’t have. And so growing up feels hard. But it’s not. But it is. And so much of what you deal with as a kid is just what’s been handed you. And before you can decide what it is, it’s over. The Bible tells us to number our days but I’ve found that hard to do, as most days look a lot like the yesterdays in my adult years, not recognizing that they do slowly change in ways that are harder to see. It’s hard to see when there are no more last days of school or drivers exams and graduations, or first jobs or first crushes or weekends at grandma and grandpa’s. Or summer nights when your friend comes over for the sole purpose of getting the radio flyer out and pushing each other off the driveway down the hill donning bike helmets and glow sticks just because it will make us laugh. Just because.
But I just realized I’ve actually found a very practical way to number my days, “that I may gain a heart of wisdom” like the Bible says. And it’s simple: Befriend someone young and watch them grow. It’s crazy how much kids change physically, but also as they discover more about the world and who they are. Watching someone else change quickly reminds me how fast time is passing and how little of it I actually get. Enjoying that process and that person provides a sort of reflection and friendship that is both fleeting and terribly wonderful. There will come a day when days like today can’t happen but I’m grateful for Maggie and Hannah and the fun, passion, authenticity, and uniqueness they bring to the table that remind me how short and privileged it is to befriend a human in the earlier stages of life. In ten years that age gap will close and I’ll lose those conversations on the first impressions on new experiences in life and we’ll talk about things in calculated ways, which isn’t bad just somehow less precious.
One day we won’t have the chance to talk over each other ninety miles a minute, or listen to Christmas songs before Thanksgiving, or tell stories about almost breaking noses (Maggie), breaking noses (Hannah), or breaking other people’s noses (Me -Jesalyn if you’re reading this, I’m still so sorry all these years later). We won’t get to knowingly agonize over if Katniss and Peeta will ever truly be together, or get to marvel over Maggie’s Texas Longhorn socks and “Jandals” (Jesus sandals)
The hardest part of growing up is grasping the impermanence of the present situation and today I got to remember that. And I’m glad. Girls, please try to never be fully grown up. You’re both so lovely as teenagers, and I don’t feel most people make lovely teenagers. If you ever find yourself struggling with feeling like time is not passing quickly enough like I once did, then just take it on faith from your on-the-fringes-barely-hanging-on-somewhat-culturally-relevant-to-your-people friend Bri: it will be over before you know it and you might even miss it. Love you. Let’s be friends for a long time.
Everyone loves an out of focus picture, right?