Growing Up is Never “Graceful”

There’s this saying that’s been floating around in my head: “Growing up gracefully,” and I hate it. Like I really fucking hate it. There is no way to grow up gracefully. No way. It’s impossible, implausible it’s impatient, it’s a million other words that start with im but it’s NOT graceful.

As a person who at 21 is still growing up I can attest to this, and I feel like I need to attest to this.

Here’s why:

I graduated in June, looked for jobs over the summer, and was offered a job (at my dream company) literally on the first day of September (it was a Thursday) ((idk why that matters)). For those looking in, that means my life is literally right on track. My t’s are crossed, my eyes are dotted. I’m basically a perfect example of a successful transition from student to fully-functioning young adult professional.

I guess this is all partially accurate. I have done things the way you’re “supposed to”. I have been lucky enough to move on to the next stage of my life quickly and relatively easily.

Check and check and check and check.

But despite all these perfectly crossed t’s and beautifully dotted i’s, I have certainly not as they say “grown up gracefully”.

Exhibit A:

-immediately following graduation in June, I decided not to begin looking for a job as I should have and as I, a shiny new graduate, was “supposed to.” No. I instead decided to have what I called my “Neverland summer” as in I am never growing up. As in I was going to-for-four-months be Peter Pan.

Exhibit B:

-As part of this, I went back to my summer job as a student. I worked at a strawberry farm selling wine, with people I thought were my best friends. Except it wasn’t fun anymore. I didn’t have anything in common with my much younger co-workers. Friendships that had once been my most solid foundation, my summer-job-bragging-right, quickly deteriorated, and with them, so did the only thing that made working a tedious, menial job tolerable.

And Honestly? That was brutal. I lost my friends. I lost my lifestyle and I lost the summer I’d been planning and wishing for the entire school year. I didn’t take any of that very well.

Not very graceful eh?

    Exhibit C:

-After this summer demise, I spent the rest of the summer looking for jobs, not hearing back and getting extremely discouraged. This is turn led to sleeping all day, Netflix binges and all around misery.

                NOT SO GRACEFUL EH?

Luckily before things were too far gone, I got that call. The one that told me I had an interview in a few days. The one that had the potential (not to be dramatic) but the potential to change my life, and it has.

I now work 9-5 five days a week. I commute with what seems to be everyone else on the freaking planet, and spend my down time doing errands, prepping meals for the week or doing other boring things that adults do, or should do, or whatever. Still, I wouldn’t say I’ve entered this new part of my life gracefully.

For one thing, I’m tired all the freaking time, like more tired than I ever thought possible. For another, I honked at a lady today for putting on lipstick at a red light (and almost gave her the finger too). I was once a very polite friendly driver. For another another, I haven’t been to a bar in two weeks (that’s a long time okay?). And in fact, I’m not really sure how to have an adult social life at all. Like what do adults even do for fun? Laundry???

Now, in case you’re reading this and still thinking I sound like I’m not adjusting too badly, I’d like to take a moment to tell you that I am and I’m not. I’d like to tell you that I finished my fourth day of work today and I came home excited to see my boyfriend and my rabbit, but also that my head was fucking killing me after being at work all day.

I’d like to tell you that I’m on the verge of a meltdown because I have to go to bed in like ten minutes and haven’t finished watching my show (which I will now have to pause and finish watching tomorrow after work which is basically like 500 years from now), but also that I’m kind of really excited to see what I get to work on tomorrow at the office.

Finally, I’d like to tell you that I’m not putting into words everything I’m feeling because there’s a chance my boss is reading this. However, I’d also like to tell you that despite all the doubt, the bitter-sweetness and whatever else I’m feeling about beginning this new (and seemingly never-ending) phase of life, I’m really really really grateful to have the opportunity to be where I am, to work where I do, to have the co-workers I do, and that I’m so excited for what’s next as a media production assistant at my new company.

Still though, growing up is hard, change is hard, and transition is really really fucking hard.

I know these things, you know these things, but as a seemingly functioning adult, I feel like it’s my duty to reiterate them, to tell you that no matter how graceful it looks on the outside, there’s nothing graceful about growing up, not at 5,6,7,8,9, not at 12, and definitely not at 21.

Image result for growing up gifs

Open Letter To Gayle Forman

Dear Gayle,

I am writing to thank you. I needed to thank you for your words, your books, your stories, and to do this I needed to tell you my own Dutch love story.

I first read Just One Day when I was 18 and travelling through Europe. I had to stop. In comparison to the novel my trip felt restrictive, adventure-less (even though that’s how the majority of Allyson’s trip was too).

I didn’t ever get my one day, not in the three weeks of Europe, and I probably won’t ever. But that’s good, at 18, I wasn’t ready yet. Three years later, I still wasn’t ready. I was a mess after a mess after another mess. I was bruised, and defeated; ready to graduate from university and move on. (For good). So of course, that’s when I met him.

Jordy (prounounced Yordy), was shy and tall. He didn’t look the way he did in pictures. He was wearing cowboy boots and an ugly black sweater with his name printed on it. I couldn’t believe it was him. I started thinking of ways to leave the date early as I led him into Starbucks and sat down. He spoke loudly and with a heavy dutch accent. A farmer, he practically shouted about cows and milking (most of which I began to tune out).

“Sometimes though, when I’m milking I start to wonder what it all means…what the point of it all is, what I’m even working towards or for.”

I looked up. This simple man had caught my attention with his philosophical question. There was something there, something that wasn’t easily seen. I took him back to my place where I forced 20 minutes of High School Musical on him, tested to see how he got along with my beloved pet rabbit, and then booted him out the door with a conciliatory hug.

He texted me the next day, and the day after that, and after that. I was leaving in four months, but I was lonely. I gave him another shot, and another, and another and another. A month later, I introduced him to my family. A week after that he asked me to be his girlfriend,and without hesitation, I said yes.

Fast Forward to Now.

He’s working on immigrating to Canada, and I’m spending hours a day helping with the never-ending paperwork. It’s stressful, and terrible. It’s got us at each other’s throats almost constantly. I’ve wanted to walk away so many times. I wanted to walk away from the paperwork, from the stress, from the process and sometimes even from him. Two days ago, he yelled on the phone out of sheer frustration, and I almost did.

But see, he’s home. He’s my home.

Even though, through his immigration situation, he’s become the source of my frustrations, my stress, and my sleepless nights, he’s also the only person who’s broken my heart wide open.

He’s kind. He’s consistent. He’s extremely patient with me. He’s gentle. He’s caring, and when he walked in the door last night, I could see the how pale he was. How rundown. How red-eyed and dog tired. How terrified. How devastated he was by the situation we were in, and by the real possibility of losing me.

I couldn’t look at him. Not without crying, not really at all. I didn’t know you could actually feel a heart break. I didn’t know you could feel it crack as the cracks were happening. I didn’t realize just how physical, mental and spiritual that kind of pain could be.For a moment, I thought these were pains were sympathy, empathy. But I don’t believe those feelings could ever be born of pure sympathy.

I am sure that what I was feeling wasn’t his heartbreak. It was mine. It was realizing how gutted I would be losing him. It was feeling the pre-loss of knowing in a few months, I might be putting him on a plane to Holland while the paperwork gets figured out. It was the guilt of letting myself fall in love while knowing full-well that love might be the one thing out of and above our control.

Gayle, I didn’t get my one day. I fell into this slowly, and by accident. I fell into it despite an existing plan, despite the risks, despite not wanting this or him, or any of it really.

 Unfortunately though Gayle, I might get my one year. Depending on how this all goes, we might be apart a few weeks, a few months, or much longer. That’s the reality of it. That’s my reality.

And you know, “maybe time has nothing to do with it”.
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

I always told myself the reason I hadn’t fallen in love at 15,16,17,18,19,20, was because I was the type of person who could only have one great love. That maybe, the reason all the heartbreak, and close-calls in the past, were only close calls was because mine was a heart that could only love once. That that’s all I was capable, was to love once, but to love hard and love well.

“Doubt is part of searching. Same as faith.”
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

Or maybe that’s bullshit. Maybe he’s not the one. Maybe I was wrong and this is just part of a longer story that ends with someone else. Between you and me though, I hope not.

See Gayle, I’m ready now. That’s why I’m writing this very long letter to you. I am writing because I am almost finished reading Just One Year, for what’s probably the 5th or 6th time, but the first in this new context. And in this new context, I’ve learned a new lesson.

Loving someone is such an inherently dangerous act. And yet, love, that’s where safety lives.”
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

In this mess, I have tried many times to escape this immigration prison. And in doing so, I’ve built myself many different ones. In an attempt to deal with, understand and manage my stress, pain and anxiety, I have locked out the one person, locked out the love I am putting myself through all this for.

Sometimes you escape one prison only to find you’ve built yourself a different one”
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

Worse than this, I have justified the building of these prison walls, rationalized them time and again. Convinced myself they were a refuge. I have held onto them for dear life, built them up strong with my resentment towards him for putting me in this immigration prison, for making me love him and in doing so, putting me here.

Yesterday, I tore them down.

I sobbed into him as the reality hit. I took refuge in him and let him wrap himself around me. I accepted he will probably have to leave, probably for at least a few months. I cried and cried, letting him harbor my fears for the months ahead, the pure loss of being an ocean away.

Gayle, loving someone is already such an inherently dangerous act. However, loving him, loving a foreigner, makes something already dangerous, also wildly and uniquely precarious.

When I first went to read Just One Day and Just One Year again, I was initially angry that this wasn’t something you captured, but as I once again reach the ending, I am realizing that isn’t the important lesson. It is the necessary sentiment the book needed to capture. That quote is. That’s the applicable piece.

Because, love isn’t a prison. It isn’t something you protect. It isn’t something you should protect yourself from, nor is it something you can protect from external factors. It’s a risk. It’s something you have to risk. And it’s always a risk, no matter the situation, no matter the circumstances.

That is to say, love is necessarily a risk. The nature of it is such that you must risk. That you cannot protect, because in protecting love, even with purest intentions, you lose it.

For in protecting love, you are protecting yourself from the loss of that love, and in doing this, you inadvertently protect yourself from love, from having love and from being able to love. And so, there can be no protection. There can only be risk.

To most, I think this seems scarier, but your book helped me to understand it better. I understand now, that in protection there is no risk, but there is also no love. In love, there is risk, there is loss, but even if it is only for a moment, there can be love. This is what matters, this is why we must risk.

This is why I tore my walls down, because if I didn’t risk loving Jordy. If I didn’t risk it with him, I’d lose him anyway, probably prematurely.

Thank you so for helping me understand this, for helping me realize this. For helping me love.

Hannah

 

The In-Between Bits

When I first met my now-boyfriend, what was involved with him staying in Canada was both distant and abstract to me. It was something to be worried about if we stayed together, and that if I was around for, I planned on being a passive bystander to.

I’m pretty sure someone famous said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Though cliché, this is where I found myself a few months into dating him: in the middle of my horribly gone-awry plan to be unattached and ready to independently take on post-grad life. Instead of these things, I was not only attached, but also very much in love, and caught up in the messy reality of him having to go back to Holland.

I was sobbing into the phone and then off the phone. Ugly, raw, primal sounds, the sounds a heart makes when it’s breaking. All this made worse by my sudden and painful realization that without my knowing it, I’d fallen in love with him.

Realizing this just as he having to leave was a stupid and bitter kind of irony. It was the kind better left for indie-rom-coms without happy endings. I couldn’t believe my love story was about to be reduced to this. I had flashes of 2011’s “Like Crazy”.

I didn’t want to spend years caught up in immigration paperwork and applications for Visas. I didn’t want to have a relationship spread across continents and time zones.

I mean yes, there is a kind of romance in that, but when faced with the bitter reality of it, the romance all but disappears.

I didn’t want a life that was on hold, that was waiting for him to be back in it again. I didn’t want to be “halved by the halves that halve you halve,” and even a few moments into the reality of it, I knew the bleakness of “Like Crazy” was a reflection of such a situation’s reality. I knew I didn’t want that, but I also knew I loved him more than I’d ever loved anyone.

I’d dated. A lot.

I knew what was out there and it wasn’t a hell of a lot. There almost certainly wasn’t someone as patient, as kind, as gentle, as shy, as anything in the combination, in the way, that he was. I won’t be so dramatic as to say moving on wasn’t an option. It was something we’d talked about very early on.

Late one night over text, he told me that if he had to go back, and go back for a long time, he didn’t want me to wait for him, or to feel like I should. He said, “If you find someone that makes you happy, don’t worry about me or how I’ll feel. Just go be happy.”

We’d barely been dating at this point. We hadn’t said “I love you,” but in that moment I knew. I’d never met anyone that selfless. I’d never met anyone who would so easily put my happiness before their own.

As I sat staring at my phone with bleary eyes, I suddenly knew  that I was  so screwed. I knew that while he might be good to enough to let me go, there was no way I could do the same. I knew then that six months or so later, I’d be fighting like hell to keep him here because I couldn’t imagine being without him.

Today, like the last few days has been a hard one. I’ve cried a lot more than usual. I’ve been testy and on edge, taking my stress out on the people I love most. I’ve also, in a lot of ways, been the best version of myself. A fighter, a negotiator, a caretaker, a clown, a partner, a sympathizer, a girl in love.

Truthfully, I still don’t know what’s going to happen with him or with us, and honestly that’s the worst part. I know what I hope for. I know what I want to happen, but I don’t know what will.

I also know I love him. I know that even with all the stress I wouldn’t trade him for anyone, and I truly honesty absolutely wouldn’t trade what we have for anything.

My Grandma told me the other day that the Lord has a plan, and I should just trust in him. Neither of us are religious, not my boyfriend nor I, but right now that’s exactly what we’re going to have to do. It might suck right now, it might be really hard, but we can only trust that what’s supposed to happen will. We have to believe we have a chance.

Love,

Hannah