Today is my birthday. I’m at the age where I do not not want to be another year older. My next major birthday (fortunately still a few years off) is 50. Note to self: isn’t it interesting how I feel absolutely obligated to include the information that 50 is still a few years off? Don’t want anyone thinking I am any older than I am, like that is some kind of failing!
I am not ready to be 50…. there’s a little screamy part inside me that says I am not *ever* going to be ready to be 50. I think that most people feel this way, and we are all really good at not talking about it.
We are good at joking about it. “Sure beats the alternative.” “Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what-in-the-hell happened?” “Getting old is not for sissies.”
It is completely mind-boggling to be older for reasons I can’t fully explain. Somehow when you are 20 or 25 you never think you will get to 40. Recently I discovered, that you get to 40, and you somehow think you are never going to get past 40! Just like when you are 6 you think you will never be 10. It scares me…. but sure beats the alternative, right? Sometimes I wish I could talk about it, but even here, I am afraid.
I had a self-pity party this morning, just feeling funky and out-of-sorts. One thing I am struggling with is the lack of a family and being alone. It is hard realize that these are things I am never going to get. There are compensations; I am free to do many things others are too tied down to do. I visit more friends. I spend more time with students. I can do more travel when the opportunity arises.
Before I start complaining about life not being fair, I think to myself that I don’t live in Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Iraq, or Afghanistan — even if things are unfair, I have it pretty good. The trick of it is to want the life you have, rather than to spend your energy wanting what you can’t have. But if that was easy, no one would be taking anti-depressants.
In the midst of this, I got a call from one of my REU students (just arrived yesterday). He was feeling sick and needed a trip to the doctor. I could do some complaining about having to be on call my birthday weekend, but you know what? I am actually happy to do that. I know it wasn’t a big thing, but he had someone to call and ask for help. Someone who was happy to come and help.
While he was seeing the doctor, I headed out to get some lunch. I found an electrical outlet, and I plugged in my e-reader which was low on charge. I sat down nearby, but not right next to it. My lunch didn’t arrive and didn’t arrive … I was worried my student would get done with the doctor and call. I finally asked about my food, and it was forgotten. They ended up comping it for me, so I got lunch for free my birthday. There’s one thing to be grateful for.
Turns out one of the two people who ended up sitting next to my e-reader was one of my business math students from Spring 2012 and her Mom. I taught a class of 300 that semester, and sadly I didn’t recognize her. There were too many faces in that sea of students for me to recognize them all. She recognized me, and she and Mom took time to tell me that she enjoyed my class and recommended me (as a teacher) to her friends. Even though that class was a monster with 300 people, this says I was successful at making it a human environment, rather than a dehumanizing environment. That’s something worth being proud of.
I don’t have a family, but I do have a lot of good friends. I have students to take care of. I have a lot of people in my life that look out for me.
I am not a well-respected scientist with a national reputation, but I am, perhaps, a much-loved and much-respected teacher in my corner of the world. I make a difference for many students, sometimes when I don’t even realize it. That’s something to be proud of too.
No, this is not the life I thought I wanted, but maybe I should be — and am — grateful for the one I have.