for the late twenty-somethings who lie awake at night afraid of getting older
Sometimes it stills you, late at night: not the memories of red solo cups or the winter fir scent of gin, not the glitter of tight skirts and the soft blur of college parties, but waking up in the bed of the first person you ever slept with, sun undoing its braids through the window. The warm ache of their body above you, spine arched into pillow, the furtive quiet of catching their gaze in the dining hall at breakfast afterwards.
How each moment, then, stretched forward like an amber necklace, each bead captive with want. When the world wasn’t your oyster but rather your orchestra, conducting your life through a tangle of longing that at times felt impossible to suffer. You were a woman, then, but a child too, years blown open ahead of you like spun glass. There was the first kiss with your back pressed against a door, the first taste of wine dizzy in your stomach, the first time you forgot to call home on the weekend. That first day of skipped class spent down by the beach, a gaggle of other girls in tiny silver hoops, hands full of strawberries passed around a circle, that first winter in college hunched over a textbook with snow cocooning the library window.
Everything felt real, then, in a way it never was before, like the cellophane wrapper had been torn off of life or the shade slowly lifted away. How the world became, in an instant, so much bigger than you’d imagined; how before you’d been anyone and everyone, but now you could at last be someone.
And now, sometimes while you lie awake at night, after all the “firsts” have slunk away and everyone else is getting married, some on their first divorce, the fear creeps in so quietly it’s as if it’s holding its breath. The fear that life was beautiful but never will be again, that no kiss will ever taste as sweet as the first, that the thrill of discovering yourself will always be muted once again. The fear that the best days of your life have passed and all you have left is a few photographs.
But you are so young still, and you still have every feeling that you had before. There are still hundreds of nights left for you in which desire unfurls like a Molotov cocktail between you and a stranger in a bar, nights in which you run to catch the train home for holiday break, laughing softly to yourself as your boots slip on the ice, hundreds of nights spent in an apartment you will finally call yours as the city lights yolk themselves to the stars. Hundreds of evenings spent round the fire with those young women whom you once passed strawberries to, only now passing stories of their new lives. And in those lives you’re still present, not in the background but fully in the present, and that orchestra still plays quietly when you close your eyes.
You don’t have to be married yet, or divorced, don’t have to have children yet, or at all. You can still bury yourself in textbooks in graduate school, still feel that same gentle pang of possibility when you travel to a new city on your own, still hand boxed wine back and forth in the middle of an empty soccer field with the stadium lights shining down like shooting stars. Still lean your head out the window of a seven-story apartment and watch the traffic weaving through the city streets below, still order ice cream cones in the dead of winter just because, chocolate dripping down your fingers and staining the snow.
No feeling disappears just because you’ve felt it once. There are feelings you haven’t yet felt, haven’t yet begun to imagine or conceptualize, ones you aren’t even aware exist. A world that has opened once is a world that has not yet closed. There are so many windows left in your universe. Some lead to storms and others lead to sunsets, but the glass will always remain clear.
Go on, now. The rest of your life is waiting for you. You just have to walk to the door and let it in.