I spilled it to my Christian chiropractor this afternoon. Just spilled. He has a special gift, with his perennially calm demeanor and his seemingly accidental conversation starters. I should have known. Sigh.
But I spilled. So what? He knows my story. Maybe this Sunday in mass, he will pray on it. Or maybe he’s forgotten about it. I don’t know! I don’t know how this profession works, what they gain from making us confess. Well, duh, I guess I do—more business.
But I would have returned to my chiropractor anyway because I want to get my spinal stuff right. Before I spilled this afternoon, I had intended to return for a follow-up xray to see if my spinal stuff had gotten any worse in the six years I’d been sporadically seeing him. Thank ME for keeping journals! Six years. My GOD how they pile up. Six years of an unsolved spinal problem. Six years since I was scared sober and then scared drunk again. Six years since I wore a size six. Six years since I was in my early forties. Now, how the times have changed.
I am approaching fifty. And soon the idea that I have dabbled with for nearly a decade—that the forties are the new forties—will be obsolete. I asked my husband what I should do with 40sarethenew40s when I am no longer in my forties. Should I keep going? Should I strive to squeeze in as many thoughts as I can before I hit the magic number. He just casually replied, “Why don’t you just start calling it “Old is NOT the new young.” Heh heh. There really is no going back in the forth or fifth decades. There is just now.
This same non-dramatic husband always said—quite matter-of-factly—that I’ll do what I am inclined to do, and I shouldn’t waste time fretting about what I’m not doing. He has been right all along. I spent my first night of this past weekend, my Friday, reading and commenting on student writing, reaching out to a new class that starts next week, and tweaking my plans for that class. I stay late at work because I have just one more thing I want to do or try or send so that whatever work I end up doing later at home is purely voluntary and for the purpose of getting a little further ahead.
Work has been an adventure since I was hired full-time and given a professor title. It wasn’t bad before. But now, I think it’s extra special. It’s the kind of thing I should have in my late-forties/early fifties—a title, a paycheck, a job satisfaction that reminds me that all the years I spent working for it have paid off. I worked for this. I didn’t work for a novel or an investigative piece of nonfiction. I didn’t do it, and I’m ok with that. I have this.
I keep waiting for that old panic to set in, the kind I felt every day in secondary public schools, when every extra little thing I needed to do felt like a chore and an imposition, when I dragged my ass in every day and counted the minutes until I could leave, when the work was never done because there was simply too much all the time and no end in sight. Hasn’t happened this time around. I think I found my dream job. And I think my needs are simple—I thrive in an environment that doesn’t guarantee burnout within a year. I can’t believe I spent twelve years working under that kind of duress and not making any changes because I just didn’t know any better, because I thought that was normal, because I lacked introspection and thought any unhappiness I felt was my own damn fault. I am so far past that now, and I’m not EVEN 50.