Growing Up and Growing Old

By Nhi/Illustrated by Cu

She was a girl with a florid oval face, light brown hair and a slim figure. Despite having a radiant smile that could make her appear more charming to people, she rarely used it. Or maybe, I never saw her smile many times because I hardly put any efforts into spending time and building a friendship with her over two years we had class together.

I remember looking at her glossy long hair from behind sometimes during class, when the lecture got tedious and painful to my energetic mind. The dazzling sunshine poured on her hair, and I thought to myself that it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my student life.

Like Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby, I am “inclined to reserve all judgments” about people. Probably, that was the reason why I kept silent, or merely asked: “Really?” when many people gossiped about her. It was terrible – the silly rumors we young kids spread about a specific person in class during junior high school and high school. We did it, because our naivety kept us blind from realizing the consequences of our remarks.

The rumors ebbed away before I knew the reason why those were started. The second year we had class together, I sat behind her. Her hair then only touched her shoulders.  I witnessed her smiles sometimes from behind, and I realized that she was a profound individual who lived with generosity and kindness. Yet, we failed to find mutuality needed to create a close friendship.

It is the way it works in school: we could know many people and remember them for a long time after, but our conversation is as rare as water in desert. Or even if we talk, we forget about it.


Thoughts about her did not occur to me until several days ago, when I heard from someone that her Mom passed away. Having no way of contacting her, I just felt grieved.

Growing up is a delightful journey. For the first time, we buy our own clothes, rent our own apartments, and have our own money. We also fall in love, fall out of love; we succeed, we fail but we say that we don’t give up and try again. We take risks without fear, we fear but we don’t mind repeating mistakes.  It is exhilarating: to live like there is a tomorrow.

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We allow ourselves to make mistakes

But growing old is different – a much longer and more painful process. When we are old, we are scared of the future because we know the inevitable will happen. We start to see wrinkles on our skin, feel our fragile bodies and dye our hair frequently to hide the gray color. Our brains do not function as quickly as they did before, and birthday celebrations are not welcome. But the worst part of all, the longer we live, the more people we see leaving us. Soon, we will see people who we hold dear to walking away forever. Suddenly, life is not the same anymore. And loneliness is unavoidable.


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It is uneasy to grow old when you grow up, to see gray hair when you are only fourteen, to see someone die when you are not prepared for the loss.

My friend, I know the loss will leave a hole in your heart, but please, carry on.

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