You Only Go Around Once

I’ve been thinking a lot. Which is a good sign, from what I hear. Other breaking news: my heart is beating, lymphatics are draining, and the Hindenburg went down in case you haven’t heard.

I’m scared about the next year. My mom has avoided the topic of the impending date of our separation when I turn 18 next year. I’ll be going further south to the University of Texas Pan American, and she and my father (and most likely my older brother) will become neighbors with Canada on Mackinac Island in Michigan. I’ve tried hugging her more and telling her how much I love her and expressing how proud I am of her success as an aesthetician, but I want to talk about goodbye.

Ever since I was 13 I began counting down the days to life on my own, making one scheme after another to get out quick. Some days because the fights were just that bad, and others because I was aching to try my hand at the dreams I had formulated while staring at those purple walls that I’m grateful I never had to paint over when we left.

You only go around once – that’s the line I’ve heard from toddlerhood onward, and only recently has it hit me head on what it means. You have choices to make every day, and once it’s gone, it can never be so again. My favorite philosopher and psychologist, William James, said that we never feel the exact same emotion twice. That’s because we feel different emotions for different reasons every time, so we can never feel the precise way we did the last time we felt it. In other words: you’ll only feel that brand of happiness once, you’ll only get kicked with that guilt in one swing.

I want to sit and talk with her a while about what inevitably will come to pass. A part of me is scared of when she does allow me, because now when she talks about her future, it’s no longer about dreams and ambitions and ending sentences with “One day I’ll get there.” Now, instead, they end with, “I may do that the rest of my life.” As though the day is so impending. But then, one cannot deny, it is. With my best friend’s wedding on the horizon, I’ll no longer have my Watson to rip the lenses off of my rose-colored glasses. When I’m at Pan-Am I will know no one, and be entirely alone for a companion who I can so entirely trust as I do with Heather, and the last thing I will do is call up my newly wed best friend in the wee small hours for one of my petty rants or paranoia episodes when things go bump in the night. No, I have to learn to always look reality in the face and consider all options and explanations, for once, learn to do such a thing alone.

At least I know I’ll only feel this brand of dread once, only get kicked with this regret in one swing.

It has been said before me, and so it will be said after. The reason stories of UFOs give us nightmares, goosebumps rise at the sound of invisible feet upon the floor, suspicion and fear arise when we think too long about the many monsters in the darkness, heck, why shaking hands give people with OCD a spike of terror, is because we do not understand. We fear the unknown. Where are the shoes that cause the echoing click? Where are the lights in the sky coming from? What could there possibly be in the darkness? Could this outstretched hand give me something deadly with a swift movement of greeting?

When we feel a dreading ache in our stomach, hearts and bones it’s that overprotective part of our mind sending signals that say very obviously “I don’t recognize this, I don’t understand this, therefore, I do not like this.” The past year I’ve come to see such an ache as a good thing: it tells us that we care about the outcome. But sometimes I feel this ache and overawareness of time and it’s passing make it difficult for me to enjoy the time I have left. Yesterday I suddenly asked my mom if she would like to go to Blueberries (a modern-styled frozen yogurt and boba tea place) if I paid for it. And as we sat and laughed I kept noticing lines on her face that I didn’t remember being there, I furrowed my brow in frustration that I didn’t perceive it earlier. Lines marking her cupids-bow upper lip and stretching from the sides of her nose and framing her mouth. Etchings near her eyes and on her forehead. When did my mother turn into a person? I wondered. A wise woman once said that there is a key point in life, where we stop seeing our parents as parents, and see them instead as people. My bubbly, Disneyloving, hardworking mother turned into a bubbly, Disneyloving, hardworking human being before my very eyes. And my heart broke a little.

Life is but a vapor, so says countless philosophers and the Bible itself. And what a beautiful vapor my mother is. I know I will wake up one day and she will be long gone, but, goodness, I can look into her eyes and hold onto her as long as I wish, it’s nothing but gripping falling sand in one’s fist. How can any human being properly love and cherish another in a way that stops time? I feel like this should exist. I feel like if I were to fight hard enough with nothing but my raw will that perhaps I can bend the cosmos in this way, that I might hold time in my hand and demand that it cease, and that it would. But the human will can only extend one’s reach so far, it can only do so much to hold the sun in one’s hand or the stars with one’s gaze. I can’t be the only one who has felt like this. Or perhaps William James would say I am. But then, what does he know? He’s dead. Where did his wisdom and ambition and raw will get him? All that is left of him is ink on a page. All that stands of Mr. James are quotes and requotes until sometimes words are said so often we don’t even care about what they mean anymore.

I wish that I could suspend the lives of the people I love for a while, but I know this would never be enough, it could never be enough. Because I am human, and so I fear the unknown of a world without them. But yet I still look into their eyes and hold them as tightly as I may, the sand continues to fall, the lines in the sand and the lines around her mouth are drawn by time, and nothing can be done to capture such vapors, what is done is done, what has passed has passed, and I am comforted only by the fact that I will only feel this brand of grief once, only get kicked with this fear in one swing.

Live On,



15 thoughts on “You Only Go Around Once

  1. “We fear the unknown.”

    Not sure I could sum up human life any better; look at all the ways we’ve tried to explain the unknown to get rid of that fear? That said, the unknown brings new experiences and new experiences are what helps us grow and learn. Our fear is misplaced. Be excited about the unknown and use the past, the past that’s so hard to let go, as a guide. The best way you can glorify your mom is by using everything you’ve learned from her to create your own life.

    • I’ve always resented when I see books at the library or Barnes & Noble that have titles like “Vanquish Fear” or “Become Fearless” – books that go beyond treatment of anxiety and paranoia into everyday anxieties. Fear is part of what lets us know that our handy-dandy survival instincts are intact.
      Thanks for this comment 🙂

  2. The Hindenburg?? Bloody hell. That musta been quite some sight. Shame I missed it.
    Unlike me, my friend, you have realised the value of your relationships with those dear to you at an early stage. Forgive me my gauchness in suggesting that with dear friendships and family: live them every day as if it were to be their or (God forbid) your last. I speak from bitter experience and a shocking inability fo follow my own advice. I’ve left too many things unsaid and too much business unfinished. Once ‘that’ time you share has gone: It’s gone. You’ll never get it back.
    And don’t worry about Uni. You’ll have a blast!

    • You should have seen it! Turns out, it wasn’t the flammable coating on the surface of the blimp that set it ablaze – the captain got distracted while tweeting Justin Timberlake on his iPad and didn’t even notice that he had caused the craft to go into a nosedive!

      I think one of my grandest fears is looking back and saying “I wish I knew what I had.” I know one day (though no doubt, it will feel like the blink of an eye) when I’m old and gray and, as my grandfather put it today (every Wednesday I call them) “There ain’t nothing left to do but reflect.” I’ll still have very large, monsterous even, regrets. But I want to know that the thought had always passed me by to aways do the right thing, and to always consider the lives around me.
      Thank you sincerely for your advice, I will take it to heart.

      • ‘There ain’t nothin left to do but reflect’- Love it! Your Grandfather sounds like a wise man. I’m going to remember that. Hopefully It’ll come to me when there ain’t nothin left to do but reflect.
        I’ve always had my doubts about ‘Twittering’. Especially when people are doing it when they should be concentrating on much more important things. Like flying the …..

  3. Life is full of meetings and separations. That is how we grow. Too often we don’t appreciate what we had until it is gone… sad! Enjoy your life, it really is a journey…

    • I think perhaps that’s why I cheated myself out of some good friendships this past semester, because teenagers are the sort to be alright with hello/goodbye seasons in friendship. When I get attached, I’ll stick with someone for life. But, ” ’tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” is something I need to learn. I think something that has come to…distract, me about life, is that it seems to be a series of destinations to get to. Turn 16, get a permit, get a license, car, job, family, house, more money, bigger house, ect.. And sometimes as I plan out the next phase in life I pause and think about the ‘journey’, as you have accurately put it. I have no place to tell anyone how to view their life (especially since I’m only 17 and still so niave I can sometimes feel it in my bones from the frustration of knowing I can only know so much at this point in my life) but sometimes I want to tell my mom or best friend to stop and pause in the crowd and think about the sea shuffling past. How we can stop, but the world turns still. I love moments when I stop and watch the sea go past, and idly look at the dancing of a clock hand.
      This is a rather long, rambling response. But your comment made me think quite a bit 🙂

  4. You’re heartbreakingly honest, my daughter just turned 13 and I had to confront my feelings of loss that she was fast approaching adulthood. Good luck, you are going to be OK.

    • I think 13 is the first really life-changing milestone – at least it was for me and my best friend. It was when our eyes started to open and we had to start asking ourselves what we were going to do in the world. Thank you, Cindy 🙂

  5. You’re wise beyond your years, and you are so aware of life already and that it will make it painful in a way, but will also make you appreciate those moments that come and go, and you will always pay attention to things, knowing that many do not last. Parents age, we age, the cycles move on, people come and go. It’s heart breaking to experience, for the first time, but at least you appreciate the things that come into your life.

    It’s a new adventure, so see it as that, an opportunity to make new friends, and you can stil keep the old ones, it’s just that friendships evolve and change throughout the years, if it’s a good friendship, they should last and withstand the changes.

    Your mum will always be there for you, if you need her, I am sure it’s going to be hard for her as well when you go to college, but I’m sure you’ll make her proud 🙂

    • Thanks, Alannah 🙂
      Just recently I was thinking of life as an adventure. But, unfortunately, it never feels like one until we review the events several years later. I look back on incredible moments in my life that have forever imprinted themselves on my heart, and the last thing they felt like at the time were incredible moments.
      It finally seems like she’s supportive of my goals, but I can see the hesitation when I bring up leaving. She’ll change the subject or find a reason to start fighting. She may not be head-over-heels for my future, but she isn’t trying to hold me back any longer.

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