Before I became a parent, I never really thought about how much motherhood would involve letting go. I, like many parents, was focused on what I would gain: A daughter. Still, I knew things would change. I knew I’d have to bid adieu to sleeping in on Saturdays, to midnight poker games with old friends, to spontaneous drives at three in the morning. I knew I had to let these things go, but I didn’t care: The goodbye was quick, a dismissive wave as I ran out the proverbial door. Those days were merely a chapter in my life and I was willing to flip to the next page.
But it’s not only the things I willingly let go that have wiggled free. Others have managed to follow. And, with them, the parting hasn’t been so sweet. Instead of a dismissive wave, letting go feels more like standing alone on a train platform, watching the person I used to be travel down the tracks and out of sight forever.
There are a million things people let go of throughout their lives, whether they’re parents or not. But, for me, motherhood was a catalyst: The butter that made what I had tried to hold tightly too slippery to grasp.
Of all the things I’ve let go of since my daughter was born, it’s my youth that has been the hardest.
Next year my best friend turns 45. Every time I think about it, all I can do is shake my head and wonder “Forty-five? How the hell did that happen?” To be fair, my friend is a couple of years older than me (a foundation of our friendship back when I was a college freshman and she could buy alcohol), but – still – forty-five’s out there, walking up the path and preparing to rap on my door.
Now, I know what some of you are probably thinking: “You’re still young….and also you look super pretty today.” But the fact remains that this is the oldest I’ve ever been. And it’s not the easiest thing in the world – finally realizing that time does indeed go as fast as every grandparent says it does.
Sometimes, I’ll look at pictures of myself from college and it’ll actually rattle me. Scare me that everything – my roommates and I having hallway water fights, the printer in the campus library jamming each time I had a paper due, the way our kitchen always reeked of beer after a party – seems like it happened about five minutes ago. I want to grab my nineteen-year-old self and tell her to really enjoy it, even the parts that aren’t really enjoyable, because she can’t possibly know how quickly moments become memories.
Often, the speed of life seems unjust, unfair that the decades of adulthood fly by while two years of middle school last for practically ever. Unfair that our children are in diapers one minute and graduation gowns the next. Unfair that everyone doesn’t live to be 150.
I would ultimately let go of my youth regardless if I became a parent, but my daughter has helped with the process. It’s not so much the sleepless nights, the full days, or me constantly having to tell her to quit eating things like birdseed that have compounded the release. Rather, it’s the letting go of innocence: By having a child, I’ve learned that my parents weren’t perfect as it’s impossible for any parent to be. I’ve learned that we’re all doing the best we can – that we’re each works in progress. And I’ve learned that if all of this came with a motto, it’d simply be: “Life – Make it Up as You Go Along.”
In the end, it’s not just me that’s getting older: it’s all of us. And I try to remind myself of that. As I think about how my thirties went by in a blink of an eye, I remember that it’s nothing personal. As I obsess about health ailments and visit Web MD so often that if they formed a band, I’d probably buy a front row ticket and throw my bra onto the stage, I tell myself that time waits for no one. As I come to grips with having been out of high school for almost twenty-five years, I keep in mind that growing old is hard. But it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative.
Besides, letting go of youth doesn’t have to be traumatic, especially when we remind ourselves – as often as we can – to hold on to what’s next and enjoy the ride.