These days, my mom’s voice repeatedly trumpets in my head, “Make sure you take care of yourself.” Every since I moved to the east coast, my mom has iterated this phrase to me at the end of every phone call. What I once interpreted as relentless nagging has recently begun to take on new meaning. It has become a mantra that I repeat in order to remind myself to breathe and slow down because after all, life is sweet but it’s also temporary.
Because my mom’s ever-omniscient voice has been ringing in my head more often than not lately, I was immediately attracted to a novel I happened upon at the bookstore. In her novel Traveling With Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd contemplates aging through the lens of her relationship with her daughter, Ann. At age fifty, Sue prepares to, as she sees it, exit her womanhood while she observes her twenty-two-year-old daughter take root in it. The author explores the sense of nostalgia for youth and also the acceptance of the inevitable. After reading a few chapters of this book, my mom’s reminders and concerns suddenly made sense to me. As someone who is now looking back on her own life, my mother’s regrets and past mistakes have translated themselves into concern for me. I now understand the schizophrenic struggle that my mother endures, trying to give me the private world that I have harvested for myself while simultaneously wanting to be an intimate part of it. In a way, I see how she is passing on her duties to me so I can mother myself, so I can take care of myself and be okay if for some one reason or another she can’t be around.
This might come as a heavy thought, but I’ve been meditating on my own mortality. At the spry age of twenty-two, I have been told redundantly by those older than I am that I have “sooo much time.” While these comments continuously infuse confidence and keep my morale high, I have to stop to ask, “Do I really have that much time?” Two decades (and a couple years) have lapsed in what now seems like the blink of an eye. Who is to say the next two decades won’t follow suit? As my bucket list grows longer, I have slowly come to realize and accept that there may not be enough time for everything that I want to do. I can only do the most with what I have here and now.
Still, I haven’t reconciled the feeling of loss I sometimes feel when I think about leaving certain phases of my life behind. Like being a student, for example. My unquenchable thirst for knowledge had a grounds in which to flourish – within lecture halls, through term papers that I begrudgingly wrote with secret relish, tucked into conversations with fellow consorts. I miss it all, and I almost feel that when I graduated, the time for beginnings had passed. I remind myself, though, that as a member of the human species, I am entitled to adaptation. Now the world can be my classroom and everyone around me my fellow students, whether they are aware of it or not.
Every once in a while, I will have a cathartic moment in which I become hyper-conscious of the fact that I have been given something precious: a life to live out how I choose. Life is temporary, meaning everything that life encompasses is also temporary. Material things, pain, even happiness. However, I reject the cult of cynicism that often exploits this observation. Some choose not to grow too attached to anything in fear that it might be lost without warning. After having tried that, I know it’s not for me. I’m not happy unless I wear my heart out on my sleeve. It feels stifled otherwise.
I hope that by the close of my life, whenever it will be, whether it is tomorrow or one hundred years from now (taking into account future marvels of technology), I will have lived openly, laughed often, and loved sincerely. Until then (which will hopefully be a long time from now), I’m hoping to be better about listening to Mom’s advice and taking care of myself (and others around me) in the meantime.