My grandma’s eyes stared off into the distance as she recalled past relationships, old friends, family members long since passed. The way she spoke about them, you could tell that they were still alive in her memory. She remembered each person vividly as if they were still laughing over wine in her living room. She had spent her life like a shooting star—a dazzling display of light and energy—and finally at age 77 she was left to dance with ghosts.
In many ways, my grandma had spent her life outrunning time; had refused to let old age shackle her the way it does so many others. My grandma reminded my of my great-grandmother, Coquita, who seemed to drink, laugh and dance her way right out life’s door. Time never seemed to find my great grandmother sitting with glazed eyes in a nursing home. Instead she would squeeze every ounce of vitality from existence until the day she died.
My grandma is the same. A warrior of time with friends, enemies, admirers and lovers who she’ll excite, entertain and shock until the day she waltzes out the exit. At her age, my grandma feels the weight of time on her shoulders and fears the “good years” she has left are few. The fact that she wakes up each morning and finds joy in something as simple as a mango from the tree in her backyard amazes me.
Not a day goes by where she doesn’t revel in the beauty of something the rest of us brush past.
Age and time are a topic on my mind following the recent death of my other grandmother, Amparo, who passed away just shy of 81 years old. It’s the details that haunt me. A fluorescent hallway in a hospital, the sounds of a heart monitor, the mascara stains on my hospital mask when it came time to say goodbye.
Time takes on a different meaning when someone you know runs out of it. Life is thrown into perspective, goals become urgent and the daunting realization that our time on earth is limited dawns on you. Questions pop up about mortality and health as do vows to never drink or eat unhealthy again. Perhaps if I live on kale and vitamins while exercising daily, I can live forever?
Postponed dreams and wistful plans are futile when we all face the forces of age and time. Holding off on projects and goals is silly when reaching the age of 80 is not guaranteed. Following Amparo’s death, I spotted with annoyance an article touting the benefits of holding off on travel until retirement. I couldn’t believe this propaganda! Younger generations are encouraged to lock themselves in offices until their twilight years; to hold off on their dreams until they’ve “earned it.”
The cliche of life being too short is said so flippantly it has lost its impact; but in the wake of a family member’s death it becomes a powerful mantra.
At 28 years old, I don’t have a career other than the travel writing one I’ve created. I have a small apartment in New York, the love of a man I am grateful for every single day and the opportunity to see the world on the wings of my writing. I may not be wealthy but I am sublimely rich in love and experiences. I’ll chase my dream of travel writing until the day I die and I’ll live my life for this moment rather than wait for the next one.
For me, the tale of my two grandmas comes down to this: life is meant to be lived. I won’t wait until I’m older to travel and chase my dreams.
Don’t hold off on your dreams until some “perfect point” in the far future. Here’s the thing: the timing may never be perfect to take that trip, quit that job or start that project. So just do it! It won’t be easy but it will be worth.