On Growing Up and Being Left Behind

It’s that point in my life. Results day has been and gone, and I am no longer required to be in full-time education. I am officially a grown up. The world is my oyster, a glistening pearl full of opportunities buried within. However, it doesn’t feel that way. In about a month’s time, most of my friends, including my girlfriend, will be off to university, or an apprenticeship, or even just moving away. I’m staying where I am, having not gotten into the universities I wanted to go to. What has really hit home these past couple of weeks is an inescapable, crushing fear of being left behind, while people you care about go on to do better things.

I know it’s childish and partially fuelled by envy, but the fear is still there. No-one wants people to leave, and no-one openly invites change that will take things from their lives. But good lord, I’m going to miss my friends. I’m going to think about them all the time as I visit local places where we used to hang out, drive past old schools and colleges. Out there in the world, everything’s new. Everything’s fresh and cool and devoid of reasons to look back. That scares me. Really really terrifies me. I don’t want to lose my friends forever, no-one does.

I’m scared that once they get to the new place, they’ll realise it’s better. They can do better things there, meet better people, be a better person. I’m not only scared to lose them, I’m scared that because I won’t have these experiences next year, I’ll lose an opportunity to develop alongside them, to do better things, to be a better person. I’m scared of being left behind, physically and mentally.

I get to this point of panic at least once a day, but recently I’ve come to realise that what I’m feeling is so ridiculously irrational. I’ve been in this situation before, but just on a smaller scale. At the end of Year 11, my friendship group splintered off into different colleges and I thought it was the end of the world. But my close friendships survived and I have no reason to suggest that they won’t survive into uni either. As for the experiences changing them and not changing me, I’m aware now that growing up isn’t a linear process. We progress and regress and stagnate all at different rates, maturing together or separately. A friendship isn’t making sure the other is your equal, but that you always view them as your equal.

Growing up is hard, and despite all my fears I am so proud and excited for my friends. They are the people I love most in the world and seeing them flourish brings joy to my heart. I don’t want to stay just as much as I don’t want them to leave, but that is selfish of me. I am not my friends’ worlds, just as they are not mine.

I’ll always be scared of losing friendships, of slowly losing contact, but I’ll always hold on to those cherished memories and conversations, shaping who I am from the beginning. I wish them all the luck in the world and ask them to stick around in mine for a little while longer.

-Joe

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