I remember the moment when I realized I was no longer a child. But I know a few things about memory and I know that we make mistakes. Recall is often error-filled. It is malleable, fluid, heavily influenced by context and those around us. Yet, I would like to think that this moment existed as I remember it. And even if it did not, even if it’s entirely a figment of my imagination, it frames the beginning of an era that was significant to how I understand myself, others, and the world we share.
I am part of the American generation that finds commonality in where we were on September 11, 2001, the beginning of a time in which the US entered wars that are still ongoing. I remember where I was and what I said, or I think I do. But that is not the moment when I realized I was no longer a child.
I remember my dad watching TV in my parents’ bedroom and I remember asking him to explain to me what was happening. He talked about people doing terrible things and I asked why. I can’t remember what he said, but I walked away understanding, for the first time, that hatred and war don’t only exist in books.
That moment, I knew I was no longer a child.
There is a clear separation in my mind between life before and after grade 6, a separation that I knew existed but one that I did not delve into until a handful of years ago. When my parents split up for just under a year, I learned that adults are people, that love takes work, and that bad things really happen. They don’t only exist in books.
It is hard now to think about the anguish I felt as a not-quite-child at that time. It is hard to think about how awful I was in my actions towards people who were deeply hurting, even as I knew I was screaming only because there was something ripping me apart and I couldn’t make it stop.
The opening line of an essay I wrote when applying to university: “I used to make him cry and I did it on purpose.”
I was 11 and my world had shattered.
I was 11 and my world had shattered, which meant that I knew worlds could shatter. I knew impermanence, disappointment, fear, and a thousand emotions I could not name then and cannot name now.
But I learned, I think we all learned, lessons that I would not have learned any other way. I have always known that relationships are a choice. They take work, they take communication, they take people who care enough about each other to do something to be together. Love is a verb and sometimes the word itself is not enough. I have understood this for a long time.
Suicide bombers flew into Manhattan’s Twin Towers. Two months and two weeks later, my family lived in two houses and I watched adults cry. I cried with them and I was no longer a child.
However, it is one thing to understand and another thing to do. It is one thing to be aware and another thing to act. Lots of walls, lots of work, and so much safer to rebuild the walls than to stand tall without them.
We’re all afraid of being hurt, aren’t we?
And I have never wanted to hurt anyone. I do believe that most people feel this way. And this is what makes it hard to not only know what the right thing is, but to do it.
When I learned that the world and my world could change in seconds, I was no longer a child.
And there was no turning back.
2 thoughts on “Coming of Age”
Very well written Rebecca. You are a truly talented writer. I love the way you Express yourself in your blogs. I liked the part when you wrote about how relationships do take a lot of work. I always knew since I was a little girl that my parents were in an unhappy and unhealthy marriage. I also knew that one day they would end up separating, it was just a matter of when. I was actually relieved and quite happy when they split up after I finished high school. At first I decided to live with my Dad, but when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 44, my whole world changed. My parents reconciled shortly after her diagnosis, but I knew it was a big mistake and sure enough after 3 or 4 years after that they split up again. I truly believe that for the most part to learn to trust and listen to my own intuitions. Although I was blindsided a couple of times in my previous relationships, it has me stronger and to be more cautious and look out for any red flags before I trust someone completely and to avoid having my heart broken again. That being said , you still have to be willing to take chances in life and love in order to grow as a person. Someone once told me that “Love is not what you say, love is what you do.” Ironically, that same guy ended up breaking my heart for the second time. Actions are louder than words, and when something doesn’t feel right, I learned the hard way to follow my heart and get out of that relationship, as painful as it was. I still believe that there are good people out there, it’s just a matter of how and when you meet them.
Thanks for your thoughts, Darlene. Life is certainly a lot to handle sometimes, but I think you’re right that this is how we grow as people.