Whenever I want to feel joy emanate from my heart, I imagine my childhood memories. Glossy and played in soft lit, slow motion, the images destroy any trace of worry or anxiety I have. They ease my mind and bring me peace that I can’t seem to find these days. I found a silver hair the other day amid my golden brown ones flying in the wind as I walked through the urban city streets of Detroit.
And like Detroit, parts of me are hurt and in shambles. Like Detroit, parts of me are being rebuilt. Like Detroit, growing up has been hard. It’s a city of great historic triumph and a city yearning for the youth to dwell within its graffiti-draped infrastructures. I don’t know about you, but I like them like that. I like the cracks in the sidewalk. I like the smoke rising out of the sewers, the skyline at sunrise and sunset, and the people. At times, I can feel the dangerous undercurrent in the streets. I can smell its gasoline- laden aura wisp at my nose. And I can hear its ambient voice speak to me about its worries and its cares.
There are people who have high hopes for Detroit. People who believe it will thrive again and become as bustling as ever before. And then there are those who scoff at the very thought of a Detroit that is new and improved. Similarly, there are people in my life who believe that I have what it takes to make it. They love that I may not keep convention or tradition. They adore my excited tone when I talk about and take actions toward the passion I have for a life lived on purpose. Everything I say to them is embraced with a smile and words of encouragement for the path I have chosen. Do I expect everyone to treat me this way? Of course not. That’s where people like this come in – those negative, dream criminals, who rob, deceive, and try to discourage you of your pursuits.
But don’t let them. Allow me to explain to you my logic. If there is one thing on this entire planet that scares me more than anything, it is a wasted life. It is not even something I like to write or talk about. But it needs to be discussed in order to overcome it. I ask myself if I said the right thing at the right time. Am I doing all that I can do? Am I taking advantage of every opportunity? And then I realize that I’m shackled in fear. Will I make everyone proud? At the end of my life, will I hear my God say to me…”Well Done, my good and faithful servant?” Only I hold the truth to those answers. Responsibility is only overwhelming if you don’t take it. Anxiousness only grows when you lie stagnant. Fear only crystalizes when you believe it. And death only exists when the individual has lost his will to live.
When I think about growing old, I’m held by the hand of my five-year-old self as she takes me to the backyard of the home I used to live in. She smiles at me, confidently walking barefoot, plush grass and dandelions swaying in the breeze, and we come to the swing set I spent many hours on as a little girl. She has ice cream smudges around her rosy lips and gleaming diamonds in her eyes. She hugs me and walks away, leaving me with the swing and a vision of life in all its purity. So I sit on this swing and rock as the voices of my family swirl into a pool of white noise and faded echoes.
Growing old may not be what anyone expects, but we do have a hand in it. Realizing that we have the power to change things, to make our lives what we want, to live in a way that brings us fulfillment, is the first step to breaking out of the shackles. I believe childhood memories remind us to keep the childlike wonder we are born with. It’s easy to relinquish all of that to the everyday obligations – but don’t. Learn how to live by living, and learn how to do by doing. And while I continue to grow, I am grateful for every single day. I know that the difficulties life presents me with will be used to develop my character. But don’t get me wrong. There are times when the emotions get to be too much and they cause me to rebel. Of course, I want to live a thrilling life and learn and share all that I can with the world. And I will. But first, I have to have a little talk with Detroit. If you haven’t heard, she can be a little tough.