The thing about going to college one thousand miles from home is that it's so easy to forget that everyone else's lives are also still happening. Your best friends still hang out without you, your mother doesn't just sit in a dark house crying over your absence, and your favorite coffee shop serves thousands of other customers in the time you're away. It's really a weird thought and often difficult to process. There's a sense of betrayal that comes to mind once in a while until I remind myself how selfish that is.
I love to pretend that, while I'm at college, the rest of the world is paused. Nobody is getting old, including myself, no buildings are being built and no trees cut down, there is not a new class of freshmen at my high school who have never seen me, and my past romances have definitely not moved on (a preposterous thought, honestly). I'm going to step out of my bubble for a minute in this article and acknowledge that Earth is, in fact, still turning.
The Friday before Valentine's Day (which I shamelessly go all out in celebration of every year), I was lucky enough to find myself at a Dianne Reeve's concert. For anyone who may be unfamiliar with her, as I was prior to the performance, she can be summed up in three words: love, power, and humility. At the same time, she cannot be summed up in any number of words. Her voice and persona extended beyond anything that I've witnessed before and the audience was unshakably captivated by her energy. I believe that if God turns out to be a soulful black woman, Miss Reeves would be that figure.
She had many powerful words to share with the audience, but the song that caught my attention beyond the others is called "Nine." While she is forty years older than me, this song seems to describe her childhood just as well as mine. I couldn't help but feel extremely homesick after listening to it. It was Valentine season and there I was, alone, in the third biggest city in the world and all I could think about was how much I wish my ma and my best friends could have been there with me.
I didn't wish to be home - I know that I am happier in New York - but I just wanted to be able to share it with them, and it was terrifying to realize how difficult that would be. I was forced to accept the fact that things change. Life is not perfect and it will never be - I can't have everyone I love in the place that I love most - but that doesn't mean I can't be happy.
I've heard time and time again from adults not to go through life in such a goal-oriented fashion that you forget the small victories within each day. Even though I'm still eighteen, the importance of this has become incredibly apparent to me. Suddenly every day without my best friend is terrifying and every day I spend doing homework instead of acting upon my childish instincts makes me feel like I've aged another month. There is nothing more disturbing to me than talking to a friend and hearing how trapped they feel in their traditional pursuit of life or talking to a family member and realizing how many dreams they never even considered possible.
This isn't just a message for my friends who are blowing through teenagehood as though life doesn't begin until you're a settled adult, it's a message for all the settled adults I know who look back and realize that that's how they treated their teenage years and for every 20-something-year-old who is more concerned about finding "the one" than about checking off their bucket list.
Life might seem like this long journey determined by monetary success and keeping polite connections with all these people who probably won't matter in ten years (or even one), but it's incredibly short and the reasons for living it are greatly diminished if you are not putting happiness and health first.
You did not spend your childhood filling your head with dreams only to separate yourself from them for the sake of practicality. Magic is real - open your eyes. There are a thousand routes to happiness - you just have to find one. Don't let it slip past you.