This past November, I had my 10-year high school reunion. My roommate and I debated whether or not to go, a debate that lasted at least an hour. A friend once told me, “If you don’t have anything else to do, you should go.” I used this and many other reasons why we actually should go, and finally the decision was made. I’m not sure why I was so in favor of going to the reunion, but I emerged from the debate victorious. We both took our respective showers and got ready for the evening’s festivities.
The reunion ended up being a good albeit interesting time. I’ve always said that the people I wanted to stay in touch with, that they were already in my life, but it was good to see some old friends that had faded out. It was good to check in. Some people, without the common ground of high school there to prop up the conversation, I had nothing to say to. Thank god for the weather.
Some people looked drastically different. Some had gone bald, some were sporting facial hair, some had gotten married, and some had had early success, while some were still trying to find their niche, their place in the world. Some people looked exactly the same (I count myself among that group). Some people brought their significant others, and I felt some sympathy for them, seeing as it was awkward enough being there, even though I knew almost everyone.
Some had retained their friends from high school, while others left the area and had altogether different lives, had become different people. I don’t think that one approach is better than the other, it just depends on what works for the individual, and maybe that’s what struck me more than anything: some people liked who they’d been in high school and chose to build on that, while others decided to hit the reset button and start fresh.
Months later, during one of our many conversations, my roommate and I discussed what it was to be getting older. I expressed some trepidation at turning 30, and he politely reminded me that he’d be turning 30 this year as well, that I wouldn’t be alone. At this point, my anxiety over this new decade is starting to lessen, although I’m sure that my anxiety will make one more last-ditch effort to give me a heart attack before the clock strikes 12. It hurts to know yourself this well, to know what’s going to happen before it happens, but it’s who I’ve become.
As we discussed our lives, past relationships, and present ones as well, I realized that perhaps the most important thing we’d both gained during the past 10 years is perspective. When you’re in high school and you break up with someone, or if someone breaks up with you, it can seem like the end of the world. There can be tears, and that feeling that you’ll never find anyone better, that your world, at least as you know it, is over. I remember hearing stories about people who threatened to harm themselves if their relationships ended, and I remembered thinking this sounded extreme, but I know that it does happen. People are not always mentally balanced when they’re younger. That balance doesn’t always get better with age.
When you get older, you realize that people will come into your life, and they’ll also leave it. People leave, and it can happen without you noticing it. If people are important enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to keep them around. Life is a continuous exercise of holding on and letting go, so I’ve heard.
I’ve become more conscious of time as I’ve gotten older as well. My mother passed when she was 35, and there’s no doubt that as I push 30, that this is impacting how I think about things. I don’t want to waste any more time because I realize that although I’m still young, that life could end at any moment, and it’s best not to take any day for granted. I’ve noticed that I’ve started to alter my diet, leaving behind so much of the garbage food I’ve eaten over the years. I’ve started to drink less, and I’m working on my mental health just a bit more. I’m in this thing for the long haul, and I want to make sure that I stay relatively sane as the journey continues.
Holding on and letting go are paramount, but knowing when to do which can be difficult. The beauty of it is that as you get older, you gain more experience that can better inform the decisions that you make. I think age also reminds you that if there’s something that you really want in this life, something that you’ll feel incomplete if you don’t accomplish, that you have to go for it no matter what. We don’t get to do this thing twice.
I took a scuba diving course some months back, and the group of people I was with was as diverse as you can possibly imagine. One woman was almost forty, and she decided that she wanted to do everything on her bucket list before she reached that daunting number, or something like that. She opened up to me and another woman in the class on the second day, told us that she had bought a house in Waltham, and by the time that the house was finished being renovated, her boyfriend who she’d bought the house with had passed away.
She said it so casually, and the gears in my head continued to turn and sputter as my brain tried to compute how she could just breeze by this detail. She’d said it with the demeanor of someone who’s ordered a steak rare, and ended up with a medium. I’m not telling you to go that far with it, but she clearly was well versed in the philosophy of holding on and letting go. She knew that she just had to forge ahead without the person that she loved, that he wasn’t coming back. I’m still blown away.
In closing, take only what you need. That’s it. Leave the rest behind you, and don’t look back. Hopefully, with each decision of holding on or letting go, you’ll get closer and closer to the life you want to live.