Growing Up

Originally published in Far and Away.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 

― Anaïs Nin

You and your friends have been planning for this day since you’ve met. You’ve had your dress since October and you’ve been learning how to contour for a month. Your bronzer is new and so is your foundation to match your winter glow, and you’ve been practicing your poses and your smiles in front of the mirror. Nothing’s prepared you for the real thing, but no matter. The Christmas ball is awaiting your presence. You slip your dress on, strap on your new heels, and head out the door.

No one can tell your lipstick is feathering or that your eyeliner is smudged.  No one can tell your head is drowning in hairspray.  No one can even tell that you singed your hair the day before trying to learn how to curl it with a flatiron (which ended up not working by the way). And you don’t care about these things either because you caught a glimpse in the mirror before you ran into the cab and wondered if she was you. I mean, just three years ago you were doing this exact same thing preparing for your senior prom. You were awkward and in a dress that didn’t fit, dreaming of growing out of your acne and adolescent body.  And now you’re in England exploring a new neckline and your legs are showing all the territory they’ve crossed. The glass of wine in your hand is just for show; you’re still getting accustomed to the bitterness.

This will be one of the last times you’re all together and carefree.  Deadlines are so close to hitting you, you can see their headlights and they don’t look like they’re slowing down.  And time is not slowing down either so you wonder about all your other last times. Because inevitably there will actually be a last time you see each other.  There will be a last time you put on a dress to eat salmon with the wrong fork. There will be a last time you’re young without responsibilities.  Deadlines are right around the corner but graduating is not so far behind it. Time stops for just one moment to allow you to go to a Christmas ball, but you’ll inevitably return to your essay and applying for internships (which of course reminds you of your incompetency), which will make you think about life post-graduation.

I mean, seriously, where will I be one year from now?  Will I be living in a TA with all of my closest friends?  Will I be employed yet? Will Donald Trump still be ruining everything? Will I be looking back and wishing I were where I am now, in a black dress sipping wine, able to pretend the world outside is not waiting for me to return to it. Will I still be close with the friends I’ve made? Will they even remember me? All these questions have been swirling around in my mind for the past few weeks, and they’re certainly not helping the end-of-term stress that I’ve been feeling.

But I think I need to return to the girl on the night of her senior prom in a dress that didn’t fit and take a lesson from her. That girl in the the prom dress that didn’t fit really thought she was never going to grow. She really thought that her life was going to be a montage of dresses that didn’t fit and groups of people she wouldn’t fit into. Her body was all the wrong size and her personality was all the wrong flavours but she figured it out. Prom girl never imagined herself in England literally slaying in a dress that actually does fit, never imagined herself even at a place where there could be a wrong fork.

The point is that there’s always tomorrow to grow up. There will be time. Right now is the best place to be, the best place to grow from, and if I keep getting caught on where I want to be a year from now or where I was, I’m going to miss it. So here’s to myself and to savouring my moments as they come, to holding onto them for as long as possible and knowing when it’s time to let them go. And right now I am standing on a staircase with a glass of wine before dinner and my highlight is glowing and my body is fire. So let me breathe that in for just a little longer.

Kimberly NguyenComment