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Thank God I'm Growing Older
I saw this girl at a karaoke party last Friday. She could have been 20 years old, maybe a little bit more. She came up on stage wearing a white collared crop top and black high-waisted pants. Her natural blond hair was dense and reaching hip length, her makeup minimal and delicate. Her chin and full lips looked very similar to mine.
“I wanna cry, and I wanna love, but all my tears have been used up” - she began singing in a deep and hypnotic voice of someone carrying the weight of the whole world on their shoulders. I’d never heard this song before, but it seemed to match her perfectly. There was some heaviness around her, not a single time did she smile or even look up while she was singing.
Or maybe it was all just my projections? She dressed and looked much better than I did at her age, but I certainly saw the twenty year old me in that girl on the stage. Suddenly I remembered how it’s like to live in the shadow of hopelessness and despair, to cary this certainty that things will never be right and there’s no possibility I could ever love anyone again.
That girl’s table was right besides the stage, so I could keep watching her for the rest of the night. The friends she came with were as young as she was, but the rest of them seemed much more cheerful. Every time they got up to dance in front of the stage, she was sitting with her eyes half closed and leaning on someone - her boyfriend perhaps? You could tell she was trying to have fun, but there was this gravity and seriousness surrounding her at all times.
A few people told me college was the happiest time of their lives. For me, it was definitely the most turbulent time. As a young kid living with my parents I could at least hold onto the hope that things would get better when I move out of my childhood home. Then as I moved out and somehow still felt depressed and miserable, there was no longer any hope to hold onto. I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, and struggled to make it to class. Without anything to look forward to, I thought I’d be stuck like this forever.
The girl in white shirt and her college friends hardly drank any alcohol. When I was her age, I regularly got so drunk I’d pass out. Does this mean kids these days have healthier ways of dealing with the darkness and despair in them? Or maybe it’s this particular girl being wise beyond her years?
I wished we could chat for a bit, but would she even want to talk to someone like me? When I was her age, people like me seemed ancient, clueless, and pathetic. She must have seen me on stage, fooling around in an exaggerated outfit, messing up the lyrics of Gangnam Style, and laughing at myself. For the 20 year old me, this kind of performance would bring equal parts admiration, envy, and contempt.
Besides, how exactly was it supposed to happen? She was there with her friend group, and I was there with mine. I don’t miss getting drunk or smoking cigarettes at all, but I do miss the chance to mingle with random strangers that both of these things offered back then.
None of the women I know would want to be in their early twenties again. The most charitable sentiment is “If I could come back there, but knowing everything I know now!”. But that’s not how life works, I know everything I know now precisely because I had all these clueless periods and painful periods and hopeless periods and still made it alive on the other side. Perhaps there are people capable of learning on someone else’s mistakes, but I’m not one of them. I had to make every single dumb mistake people warned me about to become someone who no longer needs to do that.
One of the best things about growing older is gaining perspective. The first time your heart gets broken it does feel like the end of the world. You can’t possibly know what’s on the other side or even if it exists at all. Only after you’ve successfully survived a depressive period and learned from it you may be able to fall apart without succumbing to despair. Yes, falling apart still sucks, and it might still feel completely hopeless in the moment, but you know from experience that eventually this too shall pass.
Could I possibly explain it to that girl I saw? Would she even wants to listen to someone in a satin leopard print shirt with glitter on her eyes? Maybe she would, I met a bunch of weird older women on an online forum when I was her age, and they certainly gave me some of that long-term perspective and hope that I was so desperate for.
So the next time I see that girl or a similar one, I’ll look for any kind of excuse to come to her and say something like, “I love how you sang that song, it was so honest and real it literally took me back in time. Thanks to your singing I remembered how it’s like to carry the whole world on your shoulders with no hope for respite. But if by any chance you’re feeling like this right now, that’s just the beginning of a long wild crazy ride, and you know, all of my friends agree that it only gets better from there.”
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