In second grade, I spent an entire night crying because my parents wouldn’t give me a parakeet. I buried my face in my pillow and sobbed because I spent the past two months in the library reading books about bird keeping, making lists about how to line their cage and shower them with a spray bottle. I cried and cried into my floral pillow until my father came in and switched off my night light and stroked my hair.
Last weekend, I found my myself in the same position, but my pillow’s blue now and there’s no night light to cut through the darkness and no one to stroke my hair. This time it’s not about that little bird; it’s about helplessness and giving up and a sadness that makes me think I won’t make it to the morning. I’d give anything for my biggest worry to be about the stuffed bear at the store that “just cost too much” or the canceled trip to the aquarium. Why did I ever want to grow up?
I find myself asking that question over and over again lately. When I was a little girl, I used to dream of the day I could wear heels, finally use the stove to cook a meal for Thanksgiving, pack a briefcase and rush to my job at a newspaper office. Little did I know that adulthood comes with hopeless nights and dark mornings and gutting, empty moments that are nothing close to a dream.
So to you, sitting there, anxiously awaiting three prelims and nursing a cup of coffee to cure sleep deprivation: Stop and pause for a moment. Because it’s not too late — we’re still kids with dreams that are too big and fears that seem insurmountable. Stop thinking about what job you’ll land next year or the homework assignments next semester, and just live now. I wish I told myself that when I was younger, but I’ll tell it to myself now: It’s never too late to cherish life for what it is right now, right this instant. I wish I had savored what I had when I was a little girl — to have realized parakeets are small problems and that life is beautiful right now, just the way it is. Live like you’re a kid. Live for today, not tomorrow or the day after. In our fear for the future, we forget today. Don’t make that same mistake again — when we wanted to grow up too fast.
I’m going to call home today and tell my 10-year-old sister to pause. Dream a little more. Put away the makeup magazines and the cellphone advertisements and the college brochures. Worry less about homework or the mean girl on the playground or the Halloween costume that will look cool. Roll in the grass instead, laugh at the sunshine and run in a polka dot dress, and dress in whatever Halloween costume, even if it’s ridiculous. God knows I wish I could go back and do it all over again.
And the same goes for you: Stop trying to grow up for a moment, and just pause. Think for a moment how lucky we are to be in the life we are living, right now. Think about the blessings and the gifts and the joy right now. We’re growing older, day by day. Every second becomes a memory when it ticks past — don’t let yourself miss a single, fleeting one.
Kelly Song is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at email@example.com. The Songbird Sings appears alternate Thursdays this semester.