20 January 2009

Aging and Time Passing

OK. I loved that yellow dress Michelle Obama wore today. But there's no way I could wear it. First of all, that color would never work on me. Second, she's skinny. At least she looked great in it.

As for the inaguration: Sometimes I was enjoying it; other times I was turned off. Actually, I think I was more alienated by the commentators than anything that happened in Washington today. Then again, the so-called journalists have talked even more and said even dumber things than they did today.

I'm still glad Bush is gone and Obama is in. I think even McCain would've been better--and would've had a chance of winning had he not chosen Sarah Palin for his vice-presidential nominee.

Now that the Inaguration events are mostly over and done with, I feel, if nothing else, a little older. Well, of course, you're probably thinking: One is a little older with the passage of time, any amount of time. But something occured to me: This country now has a President who's younger than I am! So I'm having another one of those "Holy shit, I'm getting old" moments. Just like I had when I taught a freshman class and realized that none of them had been born yet when I walked up to the podium for my bachelor's degree. Or when I met someone younger than me who was a grandmother.

But it's not just someone's chronological age that makes me conscious of my own. After all, there are new faculty members who look like they're younger than I was when I ended my marriage and got my master's degree. (I don't mean to imply that there was a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the two. I do, however, find it interesting that one of my current students told me, last week, that she came back to school after her marriage split up. ) I feel like, if not one of their peers, at least not like some washed-up aunt or in-law around them.

And then, of course, there's Dominick. I never dreamed I'd be with anyone, of any gender or orientation, who is as young and good-looking as he is. Then again, I never could have imagined a soul like his. Maybe that's why I don't feel old when I'm around him. If anything, I get all giggly or teary around him sometimes, and can feel--or at least imagine--myself as the girl, the young woman, whose life I could've lived.

What's even stranger than anything else I've mentioned is that the changes I've undergone don't make me feel old, even when they make me wish I could be younger and making the journey to my current life. I was talking about this with Celeste, who is one of the first faculty members I met when I came to the college. I find myself liking her more as time goes on, in part because I've seen her change. (Not that I didn't like her as she was before.) She showed me an essay one of her students wrote about a poem of mine. That student saw things in my poem that hadn't even occured to me--among them, a theme of growing older. The student liked the poem, though she said it was "not an easy read."

Celeste and I talked about that essay, and about the changes we, and people in general, experience. She lost a lot and has just given up a full-time lectureship for a grad school fellowship. But, she says, the man who forced her, with a threat to her life, out of her "comfortable, cozy life" as a department chair at a college in Texas, and into several years of adjunct teaching before attaining the postition she's just given up, ultimately did her a favor. "I've learned so much and can move on to better things," she said.

But it's strange, I said, that sometimes we hold on to things, and relationships in particular, because we want something or someone that's remained as we remember it. We don't want it, or that person, to change. However, we ultimately lose those things, those relationships, those people, whether by our own doing or through some other means, precisely because that person, that thing, didn't change.

"And we did," Celeste added. "Everything and everyone has a certain amount of time in our lives. If we don't leave or let go, it's not good for us. Like that former friend of yours you'd told me about."

"Yes. I wanted to continue our relationship because I wanted to hold on to something from my past. What I was really wanted was a memory. But it didn't work, precisely because I was having the same conversations--perhaps with the names and places changed--as I had twenty years ago."

Then Celeste remarked on how much change she's seen in me. "It's not just that change," referring, of course, to my gender transition. "You seem more centered now." She said that, not only today, but a couple of weeks ago, too.

I first met her almost four years ago. On one hand, it seems like a lifetime ago. On another, it seems like yesterday. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it's true for me. It also explains, I think, why thinking about my changes doesn't make me feel old. It's the things that remain the same that age us in the ways we don't want to grow old.

And today's voice lesson, my second, didn't make me feel old. If nothing else, it's showing me what it's like to learn something brand-new. Nobody grows old doing that.

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