I saw the musical Cats on Broadway a couple of weeks ago with my mom and my sister in New York City. I’d seen a version of the musical before when my high school put on a production and was pretty familiar with the songs, but when I watched Cats this time – a show I had previously thought of as a series of fun dancing cats in cool (but also kind of creepy) costumes – I felt pretty moved and even got goosebumps (and maybe shed some tears).
The musical’s most well-known song is a piece called “Memory,” sung by a sad old has-been reject cat. I’m usually one to listen to melodies of songs more than the lyrics, but I actually paid attention to the words this time and realized how incredibly haunting and beautiful they were. In fact, “Memory” was one of several acts in the show when older cats reminisced about their younger days – glory days, if you will – and it really made me think about my own life.
I often fail to remember this, but I know that as a mid-twenties young professional, I’m currently living some of the best years of my life. My responsibilities are minimal: I have only myself to support, and I don’t even have home or car payments to worry about. I’m working (yes, I’m working now – update on that later!) in an incredible city that I wanted to be in, with my earnings free to be used for food, travel, and all the other pleasures life has to offer (after paying taxes and rent, of course). My long-term boyfriend and I are looking for our first apartment together, ready to start the next chapter of our lives as we finally end the long-distance portion of our relationship.
Best of all, I’m young enough in my career and my life where I have some experience – but I have so much more ahead of me. This means that the opportunities are still endless; there’s so much I can and want to learn; I can try, and fail, because I have the flexibility right now to do so. I love this about being in my mid-twenties: I love having that chance to work for what I want to achieve later on. I know that I may not have this luxury of time later on; I may not have the room for failure when I have a family to support; I may not have the freedom to take spontaneous travel breaks when I want them. I know that I’m in my personal Roaring Twenties right now, but I also know that it doesn’t stay this way forever.
There was something tragic about the way those cats on Broadway sang about their young selves: the pride with which they sang of their glory days were marred by hints of bitterness at realizing those days were over. It’s terrifying to wonder what it’s going to be like when we’re old: if we’ll feel anything like those cats, whether we’ll be badly wishing to relive those glory days again. We’ve all heard it from our grandmas and grandpas: “When I was your age…” But what we often forget is that someday, that will be us.
I know I can’t fight getting old: it’s just how life goes, and I also know that with age come other experiences that are amazing in their own ways. While watching the cats reminisce did make me fearful of getting older, it also spurred me to put in a greater effort to treasure each life chapter as it is. I will only get to live my twenties once, and so I want to make the most of this time. I want to work my brain to build greater skill sets and to learn new things from people who are better than me. I want to work my body to be in good shape while I still have the metabolism of a relative youth on my side. I want to work my heart to spend time with those I love most, and to contribute meaningfully to society.
I’m excited to wrap up this year with these thoughts in mind. I will only get to live my twenties once – and I’m going to make damn sure that I live them to the fullest.