And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea.
T. S. Eliot still charms me, years after our introduction, and I find that as I grow older my love for this poem morphs without diminishing. I remember distinctly that my favorite teacher in high school, my junior year English teacher, was a sucker for any poem about mutability. This one comes to mind first for me at the thought of that word. If it wasn't so very long, I'd tattoo the whole thing onto my body. Every time I read it I find myself falling for a different passage.
My birthday is in exactly 11 days, and I've been talking about it almost non-stop. It's not that this birthday is special -- it's not. I adore August; I wait for it, patiently but with one eye to the calendar, all year long. Even the 112 heat index can't sway me, and I find that it is one of the few buoys for me lately amid family drama and the chaos of navigating the healthcare system. August coincides with the beginning of school (which I've never been a huge fan of) and the end of summer, which is always bittersweet. But everyone around me is ready for the end of the dog days, ready for the temperature to drop to (at least!) 80 degrees, ready for the holidays and long pants and the end of summer electricity bills.
Secretly, I love the summer -- kids voices echoing as they play in the streets, long sunlit evenings melting into twilight, beers on the porch, swimming in backyards, nights that call me out till 3am. August is my last hurrah. It's also the month that everything big usually happens. It's when my best friend died -- seven years ago this year. It's a big travel month for me, which is a part of the soul searching my birthday always brings out. It's the two year anniversary of my move to NOLA.
It's also a really beautiful word. August. I'd name a child this in a heartbeat. I love how androgynous it is, and yet, there are these curves to the word, to the letters, than enthrall me.
My birthday is more charming and reflective than New Years for me; it's a time for reflection, a time to gather up all the chaos of the last year and sort through the changes, a time to start looking at the future. I crave the company of friends and queer family most at this time. I find myself going out almost every night this week and probably next. I don't care much for sweets or acknowledgement or big to-do's, but at the point when I'm checking in, feeling vulnerable about what is to come, I love to be surrounded by the people who make me happy. I don't find myself expecting or wanting gifts -- but the opposite -- I find that I want to give more, to mother, to provide for those around me.
I've enjoyed the hell out of being 23. It's been a very good year for me, overall. It's definitely had it's moments -- kicking out my ex was pretty miserable and the hospital visit in March was something I'd prefer not to live through again. The very recent death of my dog, though I've expected it, feels very much like I lost a close friend and ended an era in my life. It's been hard to let go. But this year I've met and become close to a group of really amazing people. I have a job I adore. My cats are happy and healthy, school is going, my family is still nuts, though I'm learning to create relationships with my generation.
My young cousin was in town this weekend, and talking to her was a really bizarre reality check in my life. I'll have to write more about it another time, when I'm not running late to dinner. But a part of that was a reminder of how blessed I am. I wouldn't relive being 18 for the world. If I could go back to a point in my life, I wouldn't. I'd stay right where I am. If I could call up my 18-year-old self and tell her what I know now, tell her what I have and where I live and let her meet the people who surround me on a daily basis, I would. I'd tell her that it turns out very, very differently than you dreamed and better than you thought. I'd tell her a lot of things, but primarily, that it's all going to be ok -- so don't take anything too seriously and embrace your mistakes.
If anything, that's the same thing I'd tell myself now -- it's all going to be ok, so just fucking enjoy it. And if you're not, then make the changes you need to in order to get there.
I'm looking forward to 24. It's a number that means nothing to me and nothing to society, but I could care less. I'm finally settling into the reality that I'm one of the youngest in almost every setting in my life -- work, friends, school, etc. -- though I suppose that will change as younger people come along behind me. But for much of my life I've been in a hurry to grow up, to be taken seriously as an adult, to have the number to match the feeling. Somewhere in the last year or two I left that feeling behind, and I traded it for the realization that I have time. There's nowhere I need to rush to, nothing I need to prove. I like not knowing what the future will bring. I like that where I am now will be nothing compared to where I'll be next year, in ten years.
I'm not afraid of 30, of 40, or even of 50 and beyond. I fear what declining health will mean, yes. But I've met so many people who take age with a grace that I desire and respect. I can't change that most of life is a march toward death, through mutability, and I wouldn't if I could. I'd much rather embrace it.