The steadfastness of life that I have come to know seems to be in utter flux these days. It’s not exactly a bad thing, but it certainly is…different.
26 is a very strange age when it comes to managing expectations of how events are meant to unfold. You’ve surpassed the youthful milestones of ages 18, 21, 25 that you spent years anticipating. When you reach 26, you come to the conclusion that things don’t always go according to plan, no matter how hard you try to carefully coordinate the pieces so that they all fall into their rightful place.
To set the record straight: I’m not saying I feel old. I’ve grown to resent that word and all that it stands for. God knows that if I read this ten years from now, my 36 year old self will warg back into present-me for a well-deserved smack in the face.
It’s just that at 26, the difference in mental maturity in comparison to the past few years has never felt so tangible. From the flow of my thoughts and my inner monologue, to the measured precision in my actions, to the numbness towards certain emotions that would have once threatened my inner peace.
Of course, it’s natural. It’s all real now. The days that make up the rest of your existence move much more rapidly, and every decision you make feels weighted – almost as if there’s no more room for spontaneity, only calculated moves to eliminate risk. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the rains of castamere doesn’t just come falling – it’s pouring. (I really hope these Game of Thrones references still resonate during my ten-year reread.)
Like the risk of losing your lifelong rocks: your parents. On the first day of Ramadan, the only time of year where I feel a natural inclination towards spirituality and tranquility (cue the Ramadan Muslim sneers), I found myself in the dreaded yet overly familiar emergency room at Weiler with my mom. After she was discharged the same day, I breathed a sigh of relief – only to draw the same breath back in when she ended up right back in the same place the very next morning.
Fortunately, she’s fine now, but nothing like a good ol’ health scare to thrust you back into the throes of reality and how fragile life is – and why meticulously planned decisions become necessary.
Lesson #1: There is no such thing as forever.
My relationship with my dad has certainly changed over the years. In 2014, after suffering a major stroke, life turned upside down for the scowling man who had once been the source of much of my anguish growing up. Suddenly, I found myself swapping roles: I became co-parent, along with my siblings, to a capricious and finicky old man who with all his eccentric ways of life, was now more vulnerable than I had ever known him to be. And I wasn’t ready.
But here’s the thing – life doesn’t give a shit if you’re ready. Like the most trying of battles, these are the sort of left-field curveballs that love disturbing the lull of your so-called normal life to settle itself comfortably around your shoulders. It’s like a pregnancy discovered too late – it doesn’t matter how you feel anymore, it’s your responsibility now.
Lesson #2: Things change, people change, feelings change too.
Made-for-radio hits have this magical quality to them. Car karaoke is one of my favorite pastimes – there’s nothing I love more than belting the lyrics to a decent jam at the top of my lungs. It’s funny though, how the lyrics are almost always meaningless until and unless you find yourself in a similar context to that of the song.
The last couple of months have been topsy-turvy, to say the least. As I mentioned, losing anything you’ve come to lean heavily on is bound to leave a massive impact.
Is it hard? Obviously. But to my credit, adulthood has granted me the gift of being able to move forward without visibly exposing my internal distress. I’m kind of awed, given that one of my key characteristics is the fact that my face is an open book, whose pages gleefully give away the spoilers to any secrets I might want to keep to myself. Just a few years ago, my life would have been in shambles if such an event occurred (which it did.) Yet here I am, alive and kickin’
This isn’t my first rodeo, but it’s my first taste of this version of adulthood. And I think I’m starting to like it.
Lesson #3: The period of growth following change is crucial.
I’ve grown wary of some of the individuals I surround myself with because of their intense aversion to change. Another trait I’ve come to appreciate is being able to recognize certain faults or flaws I have and making some effort to rectify these flaws, or at least get better at addressing them.
When the lull of your day-to-day finds itself shattered – the cause being death, a breakup, some sort of loss or heart wrenching event or otherwise – be mindful that you will experience mental change. Every action and decision you choose to take will bear their consequence. Being wise and not succumbing to the abyss of bad choices is hard, but once those choices adapt to becoming your new normal, it’s the end.
On the other hand, it doesn’t even need to be that drastic. Sometimes, it’s the little things that are slowly building in the shadows that are the most ominous; whose repercussions we fail to acknowledge until it’s too late. In direct contradiction to what I said earlier, there are times (like I’m experiencing right now) that everything seems to be moving in the right direction, until one thing suddenly changes. And then another. And another. The monotony that we once despised becomes that which we crave, because change is hard.
I’ve always admired the ones who remain stoic no matter what happens to them. My friend Sammy offered choice words recently that resonated with me: “You don’t need to have an emotional reaction to everything.” Probably one of the more difficult challenges in this era of the outrage culture.
It’s important to make the choice to, when facing adversity, practice behaviors that will help you grow stronger in the long run. Make the choice to not give in to whatever hurt you. Acknowledge and address personal characteristics that do you and others harm, especially when you find yourself confronting them time and again.
You know what they say – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.