Life is never a one-act performance. There are various stages that we all must dance upon, complete with their own costumes, scores, and costars.

You’re a child: protected and carefree. Then you’re not.
You’re a teenager: curious and rebellious. Then you’re not.
You’re a university student: ambitious but still protected. Then you’re not.
You’re a young adult: still ambitious, adventurous, and still curious. Then you’re not.

A massive simplification, but true nonetheless. Every day, there are small transitions that take you a little farther from the person you were when you woke up. For better or worse, we are constant works of art with layers of paint, clay, wood, ceramic being added along with details and intricacies that will add to our finished product and ours alone.

My painting will not look like yours, my lover’s, my friends’, sisters’, or any other.

This summer brought about a sort of identity crisis. I was a friend to so many, but through the building of romantic partnerships and personal obligations, friend circles thin out. Seems normal in your late 20s. I still have people I love, but we’ve begun trading in nights at the bar for nights of Netflix binging. Saving up for weddings and retirement now supersedes the desire to indulge in The City’s myriad dining and beverage options.

The Man and I are talking more seriously of moving on to the next stage of our lives together. It’s a simultaneously frightening and exhilarating notion, but more than ever, we feel ready for it. We fight. Perhaps more than some other couples, but it always returns to an understanding and a closer relationship. We are always working to be better for each other, and for those around us. Anxiously, we wait for the moment we can take the plunge and move in together.

Me & The Man

Though it is weird to not see people five nights out of the week, there is a new happiness when The Man and I wander the streets of Queens on a Friday night, or one of my close girlfriends and I are alone eating froyo until 11pm discussing nuclear disarmament on a Wednesday, or saving my social energy for weekends with the three women who are sisters and best friends.

When you come from a family of four girls, there is always the notion that they will be the best part of your social life one day. I’ve reached that day.

Then there was the major loss of my childhood pet. I shouldn’t really say “childhood pet” because I was 13 when we adopted Spanky. He wasn’t there when I was a baby or child. But that big-eared, skinny boy romped into my life Memorial Day 1999.

Spanky

There’s something inherently confusing about losing a pet. He wasn’t a human. He wasn’t someone who gave me life changing advice. He didn’t take pictures of Jeremy and I before Junior Ball. He didn’t share a glass of wine with me when Andy and I broke up in college. He didn’t pack my bags and help me settle my first city apartment. He didn’t buy me the best Christmas present of all time.

But he was always there. For each of those events, as well as all the others the filled the last 15 years of my life. Spanky was the cranky old man who bit any child that came too close, but would lovingly paw at the door when the mailman made his daily visit.

How do you mourn then properly accept the death of the first animal you truly loved? Genuinely, I don’t know. Is the passing of a pet the telltale sign that a portion of your life is over? A resounding yes. Pets are immeasurably beneficial to the development of various parts of a human. I would not be who I am today if we didn’t take that kitten in from the parking lot at my mother’s job.

Part of me never wants to let another kitten into that part of my heart that Spanky showed me. But part of me wants to move past the pain of losing him, and remember the 15 fun years of owning a near-insane but perpetually adorable cat.

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I’m still working on letting go of that stage. Painting and plants are helping. My mother took a clipping of one of her plants to give to me so I had something living by which to remember him. Two of the leaves still have teeth marks from Spanky. It brings slight joy in an otherwise difficult time.

The sooner there is the acknowledgement of these various stages and the fact that I can’t and won’t simply stop at one, the faster I can move with grace and confidence. With so many people in my life who can’t kick the habits they developed in college, at a certain job, being single, or whichever stage, I believe this is sound advice.