There is never an end to a journey in life. But today I’ve walked 40 years of it. And I must say….I am tired.
When you’re 30, you’re still young. Most people aren’t even married yet or even still going to school trying to find their career paths. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In the 70s you were a full blown wife and mother as early as 18. In the 80’s perhaps you were 20. In the 90’s, late twenties. And in this day and age, mid to late thirties is when people consider marriage and families. Generations and times move. Years move. And so does your age.
40 is when you better have your shit together because life starts to get real. I mean REAL. And what I mean by shit together, I don’t necessarily mean marriage and kids. I mean being able to support yourself in this cruel world because at 40, you need the stability to be able to handle how real life gets financially and emotionally. The shit gets real folks. And you need the weapons to at least block your face from it. Financial security should be the first and foremost priority. If you want someone to share it with, that’s a good thing. But never rely on another person’s money to follow your dreams. It seems that a family member has to die before anyone is financially secure these days. That should not be the case.
I’ve walked many streets. Walked them alone, walked them with many, walked them with a few. And all have taught me a lesson on some level, either good or bad. I’ve walked from pure innocence to dark experience and stood in awe at the difference. Not to say I’m wise because I still feel like the five year old not in control of her emotions. But just the stark contrast between having the innocence of a child to having the experience of an adult. Truly the more you know, the more hopeless you become. Sad, but true. When you’re a child you can’t even conceive darkness of people or even ourselves. We are innocent to those stains as a child. But when you get older, CS Lewis said it well: experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn.
No matter what age you are, it’s important to be happy with yourself. My husband Dan said something to me tonight about what his father said to him on his deathbed. He told him: “I hope you don’t hate me for being so rough on you when you were a kid” Dan’s response is what’s interesting. Most of us might say, with a tear in their eye, “it’s ok dad” But Dan told him “No it’s ok Dad. It made me the man I am. I wouldn’t change it because I am who I am because of it. And I am happy with who I am” Pretty profound actually, because most of us hold onto things like that and we scream victim. We say “I’m ruined because of this” This is because many are not happy with who they are. Therefore, to be happy with ourselves is what our goal should be along with financial security. If we are not happy with ourselves, we will carry the pain from the past with us and blame all the bad on that.
So what have I done here? Who am I at 40? I’ve done things that are pretty cool like spending time in England. London is highly recommended! I got married to a very motivated and intelligent man who built a fantastic career over the years. I pursued what I was passionate about, which was writing and literature but it was a long journey. When I graduated with my BA in English from Plattsburgh, I ended up getting an administrative job in the city. Decided had to make money and the experience with working in manhattan is a great one! I did the commute on the LIRR for four years. When I met Dan in 1999, he began to convince me to finish out my passion, which was to be a college English professor. It was then that I quit my job in manhattan and got a job at the library at CW Post. I worked there full time and was able to pay for my Master’s in English Literature through their tuition remission. Saved thousands by doing that! Once I graduated, I got a job at St. John’s University for a year, and in the Fall of 2003 I got the adjunct jobs at NCC and SCC. The rest is history with my career and my seniority flies sky high these days. My career is definitely not a money maker, but a fulfilling job utilizing passion and dedication. Still have improvements to make, but like I began this monologue, the journey never really stops.
I have two daughters—one will be ten in July and the other will be nine in October. Zoe and Sophia are getting big. And the funny thing is, you really see how quickly time goes by just watching them celebrate birthdays that are older and older. When they start talking to me in these animated and mature ways I’m always in awe. These little girls will be little women. And I still don’t know if I’m doing the mother thing right. I think that’s a journey that will never end either. If anything, like my students, they teach me things!
Dan told me never to think about my life in terms of “What would happen if this never happened?” He said never to do that because we are who we are because of those events. If those events were unpleasant, it only strengthened our characters that we are today. Today, I am who I am because of what’s happened in my life. If some events never happened, I might not be an English professor. I might not be married, I might not have two daughters and I might not be as intelligent. Our intelligence relies on our experiences. We become smarter because of our scars, because of who we meet, and because of humiliating moments or setbacks.
To try to define exactly who I am is a daunting task due to difficulties with Sylvia Plath-like depression and fears that produce anxiety attacks. These emotions are masks that prevent me from seeing my true self. Even when I get a glimpse of her, she’s pretty complicated and multidimensional. The perfect figure in literature to apply psychological criticism and extreme analysis. I’m as complicated as they get! The defining of oneself will always be a journey that is ongoing because I wear so many different hats to adapt to different people. That gets in the way too. But as long as I continue to be aware that there is a true self down there somewhere, I’m at least on the right path.
So today I turn on channel 40 and hope the programming will be interesting! It would be nice to view something I’ve never seen before. What’s great about memory is that it’s like a DVR. We record memories in our minds that we could watch over and over again. The trouble is, some are bad programs that we need to delete to make room for the good ones. Channel 40, here I come. What’s on?