Yesterday, Ava and I had our weekly Mama-Daughter date. We were sitting in Costa. I had a decaf vanilla latte and a lemon poppyseed muffin. Ava had an Innocent Smoothie and a raspberry twirl cupcake. We were talking about the Costa sign and lampshades, when the woman at the table adjacent to us lent over and said, ‘We started when my daughter was that age too, and we’re still going for coffees now’. She nodded at her daughter, who looked a little older than me.
It was a sweet symmetry and I like the idea of us being in that same Costa coffee shop 30 years down the line. Today, I have been thinking a lot about the last decade, and am I really ready to leave it behind? I hate birthdays. Truly. Not because I fear getting older, but because, like New Year’s Eve, it is such a garishly loud exclamation about time. It passes, inevitably. There is never a negotiation.
True to my sun sign, I am rather obsessed with time. The past, nostalgia, melancholy. Marcel Proust (also a Cancerian) wrote seven novels about it. In Search of Lost Time. During my Masters, my personal writing tutor (Greta Stoddart) said to me, after a few sessions, ‘I can finally see a theme. You always write about time.’ Obvious now, but at the time it was a blunt revelation. Of course, I always write about time. The madness of things becoming past.
It’s a hard thing for us melancholy Cancerians to deal with. After all, our sign represents the adolescent phase of the zodiac, and I am certainly prone to the reminiscent bump. It is from this period that I remember the most. A song, a film, a move of the hand from table to face – anything can dislodge me and send me spinning inwards, to those other places. I am often stopped short from memories, voluntary and involuntary, from that particular period. So it feels silly to think of myself as 30, when I am sure I will always be 19. That time with a glorious haze around it – the first real kind of freedom and intimacy all wrapped inextricably together.
So, Time. As far as I can tell, time is longing. It is wet summer grass stuck to your legs in the evening sun. It is the moment before you turn towards each other and maybe the moment after. It is the corners we photograph and the spaces in between where someone was standing a moment before. It was the song then and the song now and the initials on the wall in another country you once visited.
I don’t know how to let things go. Once a thing has happened, it keeps on happening. I think of my oldest friend who I met when I was four and the news, today, that he is moving to New York. I think of a time when we were both nineteen and fierce with adventure, living on opposite coasts of America. Each of us opening up our pockets of California and North Carolina to one another. Then the summer after, missing it so much we blew all our money on an impromptu trip to New York City without telling anyone.
And then the year after that, housesitting for friends in Raliegh, NC, and both of us lying in the scorching heat, when he decided to pour a bucket of ice water on me. These things are still happening inside me. And now he’s moving there, for good, and I think of how I will miss him and how I want to be there too, and how there is my home, although I can’t explain it and don’t know how on earth to get back.
I like the idea of birthdays being a personal new year for each of us, and right now I am so eager to move on with things, and finding it impossible to slow down. I am craving change, again. I have an idea of what I’d like from these next ten years, a vague sense of where and when and what, but no real sense yet of how. I like the sound of thirty, at least. It has weight to it, it has body and a thumping heart and demands to be taken seriously.
My twenties was University, Durham, London, heartbroken, world-broken pain, travel, it was letters written and poems written, a short film made, it was a small tattoo on my back, a move to York, it was working and playing, it was meeting people and losing people, it was marrying and birthing, it was something constant, something unchanged, and it was the small, soft, unnoticable changes that creep up and hide in plain sight.
I’d like to begin this new decade not by loosening myself from those things, but by enclosing them gratefully and carrying them with me, in those very secret places no one sees.
‘…You will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.”
― Marcel Proust