All I ever see is the clock ticking. Time is always running out. There’s never enough time to do it all. When this season ends, a new one will begin but what about when that one comes to an end? Why do all good and beautiful things come to an end? I’m so scared on missing out on things and losing those who are precious to me.
Hilary, how do I live alive in the moment when all I can think about is how quickly the end is approaching? How do I deal with the clock that keeps ticking, and a heart that desires to live so fully, experience so much, and spend time with so many people? My heart feels ready to explode.
Dear About to Graduate,
Why do all good and beautiful things come to an end? I feel you on the edge of your seat with this question, maybe tapping a pencil on your desk, wondering, worried that the answer might be something trite like, “because that’s the way things go,” or “that’s life,” or even, “it will all be okay.” I want to steer clear of those words, not because they are untrue (actually, I think they’re terribly true), but because sometimes it helps to hear it sounding in different words. I want to tell you a story.
I was sitting in a kayak in the middle of a French river. My friend and I were in floppy sunhats, my skin already a solid pink, our arm muscles so tired we couldn’t even admit to ourselves that we didn’t really know how to “feather” or “J-stroke” back to the group. It was early afternoon, just after lunch, and the group was eagerly paddling ahead while we floundered. It was summer, and in the south of France there is a sweetness to the air itself, a dull humming from all the things coming alive: lavender and bees and olives. We were in search of the Pont du Gard somewhere down the river, further into the afternoon. We were in search of ourselves, as soon-to-be seniors, in search of love at 17, in search of everything. I can almost taste that day, our laughter pealing out over the water to annoy a stray duck and a solo Frenchman, convinced that we had arrived at the beginning and this was, and must be, a kind of forever. We floated under the ancient Roman aqueduct singing a madrigal we had learned four years before – “All Ye Who Music,” All ye who music love, and would its pleasures prove, O come to us, who cease not daily to warble gaily…
As the days in France, and later that summer, meandered by me, I began to panic. It was senior year, I whispered, the end of high school. The end of the daily relationships, the walks to and from the Barn, the end of singing “Wade in the Water” and “I’ll Fly Away” in voice lessons, the end of whispers and note passing and French. I stayed busy so I wouldn’t see the end coming. I convinced myself it would be fine. Or that I wouldn’t miss things. Or that time wasn’t really moving at all.
But, dear heart, time was moving. And I moved with it. And you, where you are, have moved with it too. We cannot hide in our feathers or in our schedules. We cannot convince ourselves that absence is a word without meaning or the life, so rich in front of us, is not going to change. We are not given permission to do that.
I want to tell you that my story in France, which I type as if I am still in the kayak in the south of France, it was six years ago. All of its richness has entered the wider tapestry of my story and now, when I plucked the thread to show you, it brings with it a thousand others. Stories I didn’t know about until four years ago, one year ago, Sunday afternoon. It’s bound to the things that haven’t happened yet in my life – just as your threads from high school, the people you love, the things you love, all that feels most alive in you – they are bound to your future. I promise you do not lose the things you love, and the good and beautiful things that go through the first ending now have a life beyond it.
Gather the threads, sweet pea. Run your fingers through these stories of high school, of deep friendship, of strange awkward school dances and movies you didn’t need to spend the money to see in theaters and essays and languages and family summers. Hold them in your hands, feel their weight and length. Write them down, or tell them on the phone late at night. Or relive them with your dearest friends.
They have a life beyond this first ending.
They live among the thousand threads of your one beautiful story.