Today a small child asked me what it is like to grow up. I must admit the question caught me off guard, not least because, having been alive only for 15 years, I am really still trying to figure it out myself. But when small children ask one questions (especially small children with very large & earnest brown eyes), the general rule, I suppose, is that one should at least attempt to answer them - even if one is nowhere near qualified to do so.
And so -
This is how it happens.
More or less.
You have your swollen heart, your shrinking head. Here is love: this thing always slipping through your fingers. Maybe you let it go or maybe it is snatched from your grip - you can't quite tell the difference. Probably a little bit of both, but you are too young or too old or too tired to make that out now.
People go & things disappear & in the grand scheme of the universe, you are utterly insignificant. This has been hammered into you, but only now are you learning it.
This is how it happens, more or less. You learn the different flavours of goodbye: vanilla, strawberry, mint chocolate chip. Your mother's rosemary chicken. Your best friend's lemon cupcakes. Your sister's hot chocolate, with a dash of cinnamon. Here is goodbye: this slippery, wily word. It reminds you of something you had once, before you let it go or it was snatched from your grip.
Things go & people disappear & in the grand scheme of the universe, you are utterly important. People have neglected to mention this to you, but now at last you are finally learning it.
Slowly but surely you begin to know yourself on paper. You are something between a poem & a person - but if the flowers on your windowsill are wilting, then perhaps you are suddenly & gradually coming alive.
In-betweens feel impregnable, & in a way, they are: summer dancing, winter stillness, the last fading strains of the symphony of spring. The universe is a very large & chaotic place. Maybe all along you needed more than a compass to navigate it - but all you have is a pencil, so you think that this must be good enough for now.
With each passing season you grow less. With each passing year you grow more.
At last you learn how to say no, & with it comes the freedom of saying yes.
The flowers on your windowsill will never come back to life, but you begin to understand that people are far less delicate than flowers.
This is how it happens, more or less. You pick up your pencil & start drawing a path. Your feet bruise. You break. You gather up the pieces & try to put yourself together again. You look back & see that all along there has only been one pair of footprints in the still snow. You recognise them as yours.
As the first violins croon the opening notes, you begin to understand.
(Stir. Sprinkle. Bake. Cool. Repeat. You know the recipe by heart. Now all you have to do is learn it.)
It feels good to catch the bus to Somewhere, even though you are not at all sure at the moment where exactly that Somewhere is.
One day you find it in you to calm your anxious mind & see all of the places where you have drawn the wrong path. One day you find it in you to let your mistakes co-exist with who you are. One day you find it in you to let that person co-exist with who you desperately wish you could be.
One day you look back & see the footprints, & you begin to understand how to hold on.
Which is to say: gradually, suddenly, desperately, finally -
you learn how to let go.