You are too old for this.
You know, that’s what they say to misbehaving students. “You’re too old for this.”
No one is too old to stop messing around. The kid that sat in the corner and threw pencils across the classroom might grow into the guy who’s happy as hell, who has a job he loves and a family, or he might grow into the guy who travels the world, life in a case, or he might be the guy who is still throwing pencils across the room in a dead-end office job.
But someone is going to be that guy. Someone is going to be throwing pencils at you all your life.
This is what they say to people who watch the same TV they watched when they were teens. Or – no. They don’t say it, because they don’t have to say it. There’s an inching guilt every time I put my favourite movie on, because it’s an animated retelling marketed at children. But most of me sits with a cup of tea and that movie and laughs, and is happy.
Happy is not something that is easily achieved. It is something that I have had to fight for. It is something I have had to reach for, something I have had to lean into the abyss for. And I am still fighting, still reaching, still leaning. Happy is not something that is easily achieved.
I have learned this. And there are more things I will learn, and there are things I think I have learned that I will change my mind about. There are things I will never change my mind about.
I will probably never stop loving that movie. I hope I never stop loving that movie. I hope it never comes to the day that I touch the worn case and then shake my head and push it away, because there is a voice in my head saying, you are too old for this.
There are many things that will never be okay. This is the first thing – to accept that lack, to accept the romantics that secretly, awkwardly cherish their pain while hating it, tearing apart with that doublefold hurt. Accept that there will always be pain, the same way there will always be someone throwing pencils across the room because he knows pain, and he knows hurt, and he has wound up throwing pencils across a room, and do you really think he is any happier about it than you are?
There are gaps. There will always be gaps, and scars, and sometimes you twist or overexert yourself and that scar opens again – sometimes walking down a high street just a month too soon will rip that wound back open and suddenly the gap of the friend you lost years ago is back again with a vengeance, the gap you thought you had learned to ignore.
Do not ignore the gaps. Do not try to fill them. Whatever you pour into the spaces will never be enough, no matter how much of it there is. It will leave you feeling hollow and cheated.
You cannot fill one gap with something else, because there is no puzzle piece that fits except the one you have lost.
So leave the spaces be. Sleep on one side of the bed because your body remembers when it wasn’t just you.
Leave the spaces be. Write poetry and turn to show it to someone who isn’t there. Read it to the empty air, and let the words float into the breeze.
Leave the spaces be. Stand on a balcony and imagine you’re a movie star, camera zooming in to focus on the melancholy in your eyes that no one else will see, and remember the spaces. Remember the things that used to fill them. Remember eating strawberries dipped in sugar, and picking the raspberries, juice running over your fingers.
And then remember why you don’t do those things any more. Remember why when you do them again, it isn’t quite the same. Remember why the spaces are a comfort, a blessing even, and leave them be.
They will fade on their own, one day, and you can walk down the high street without tearing open a scar, eat strawberries dipped in sugar without sadness, only reminiscing. You can do those things and smile.
Do not rush your grief.
We are all Pilgrims and we progress, through a life that is not so easy as “the straight and narrow” sounds. It is not always clear which way is straight and narrow. Sometimes the path that resembles the straight and narrow leads to the Slough of Despond, and the brambles that surrounded the other road cleared only metres later to reveal the King’s Highway once more.
This is about life.
Remember to open the curtains in the morning even if it will be dark when you return, because behind a closed door there will be a room lit up with sunlight, like you. Remember to watch the movies you loved when you were a kid, and sit down with a cup of tea and fight for your happiness with those movies, because nothing is static, but guess what?
You are not too old for this.