It’s recently occurred to me that I’ve been unknowingly grieving my old life before the pandemic started and before becoming a mom. Not because I want to go back and change anything, but because life changed so abruptly and seriously in multiple ways. I never felt like I had time to stop and reflect on it. I had one positive test, and I couldn’t stop throwing up. One positive test, and every smell or step at work depleted me. One positive test, and I couldn’t eat anything. Then, add a pandemic on top of the whole pregnancy thing. And then, add moving back to your hometown and finishing your last class of college alongside being pregnant in a pandemic. Life came at me fast.
So when I left college, I didn’t treat my departure as an ending, as if I was never coming back. I never said goodbye to anyone. I never got to look back and close that chapter of my life. I didn’t even get to cross the stage in a cap and gown to signify the end of my college career. I assumed I would get to go back because I had to get the rest of my items. I assumed I would be able to say goodbye and introduce my baby to everyone who touched my life. I assumed covid would be over by the time I gave birth. I assumed I had time to fully, mentally close that chapter of my life.
Time has told, all of those assumptions were wrong. I still haven’t been able to make it back, despite plans to go. Suddenly, I put a pause in my career and eventually went in a new direction. Suddenly, I was no longer a student. Suddenly, the dynamics of all the friendships and relationships I made, changed. Let’s be real. It has been two years since the start of the pandemic and we have all changed since it began.
Grieving is weird. I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s a five step process. It can occur out of thin air and last for ages. It’s not linear, meaning we can jump back and forth between the different stages. Most of the times I have heard or seen it, it has been associated with the death of a loved one. But that’s not the only time we grieve. When anything ends- a relationship, a career path, a life path, an idea or plan we are passionate about- we grieve. We may not experience every step, or experience it very deeply, but it’s still a grieving process.
I am starting to understand that my grief has been presenting as anxiety. I’ve looked back at my college years, and worried I wasn’t present or fun enough, worried I wasn’t vulnerable or expressive enough. I worried I didn’t show my appreciation or cherish the moment enough. I’ve cringed at stupid and embarrassing situations I’ve put myself in or reacted to. I’ve missed the community that comes with college life. The freedom of not having a kid. The times I spent with friends and coworkers, even the ones where our relationships have ended. I’ve missed the moments I wish I could relive again and again so I never forget the feeling.
And being nostalgic about those memories makes me nostalgic and existential in general because life changes and moves so fast and you don’t even realize it until you’re in the future. Like my daughter has met people I have known for ten or more years. It’s a trippy experience to realize how much time goes by. My baby is almost two years old! It’s already been two years since I graduated college, since I left Vegas, since I was pregnant, and it has just recently began to feel like Vegas is my past. And that’s what makes grieving and nostalgia so weird, because in that grief state (especially in my case which was mixed with a little postpartum, post grad, pandemic depression), time flies by but it doesn’t seem like we are moving with it.
A loss isn’t always a loss- it can be a good thing. And that makes grieving weird. Because grieving brings about feelings of nostalgia. It makes you reminisce about the past, even if you’re happy with your present and excited about your future. I grieve the simplicity of life in college and before. I reflect on who I was. Still, I think everything happened for me the way it should’ve. I think I needed to leave Vegas, and I wouldn’t have done it without a push.
Eventually, we stop grieving. Eventually, we catch up. Recently I turned a new leaf. And it was once I accepted where I am now, that I realized I hadn’t accepted it until then. Vegas was my past and now that I am no longer grieving, I can live in the present. I’m not who I was before the baby, the pandemic, and graduating college and other people aren’t the same either. Changing, growing, getting older, grieving, and reminiscing is all a part of life.