You Are Not Alone

I ache for an anchor, a home- a choice that seems particularly ironic considering the nomadic lives of many within the academe. If life is a continual process of becoming, then why do I crave to settle like sedimental matter? Are Clinton’s failures the same as ours? Does a mediocre existence (a phrase that hopefully conveys a happy acceptance of the fact that one is never going to be Preseident of USA or even a small island nation) not deserve a blissful plateau of known and loved work, routines, and habits -Dr. Tanushree Ghosh on We Are A Work in Progress

In our time, settled is a luxury most will never know. This is not the answer that we want to hear, but it is the reality of our existence. Perhaps this is why I want to celebrate my milestone birthday with a tranistory activity like hiking, rather than a more sedentary margarita on the beach, because on some level I have yet to arrive, anywhere. This is not to say that there are not things, which I am proud to have accomplished, but rather that the perceived permanency, of anything: careers, relationships, “home” – is purely illusional.

For those of us who have lived lives on either side of the millennium, we know of a world less globalized, less connected then today. It wasn’t a perfect life, but there was a comfort in the familiar neighborhoods we once inhabited. A fear persists that in this present time we will never again know such comfort.   Many of us trenatgenarians have trained for careers that no longer exist or exist only in strange variations of their former selves; for the first time in history, more adults live alone then ever before , we are less likely to live near our families; familiar things we never knew we loved, like postage stamps, will be unrecognizable to our children; home is no longer a fixed locational site, but an ever evolving smattering of people, experiences and places, one that might never fully be owned. Globalization sucks.

But so does staying behind.

Howard Zinn said that you can’t be neutral on a moving train, and although  he wasn’t thinking about folks having an age-based crisis, he was acutely aware that great national and global changes occur, regardless of whether or not we actively participate. We have two choices: stand still while the world changes or be a part of the changes.

I’m not sure that anyone enjoys the process of being a work in progress, to some degree we all wish to be settled.  Clinton’s life, like no one’s life, is not a complete success. His accolades came with a heavy price to his personal life and tremendous anxiety over his role in the fate of various international events, particularly Rwanda. But the point is, we are all a work in progress. No one is fully formed, ever. Nothing is stable,ever. There is joy in this because you are not alone in your incomplete state, especially among your trentegenarian (or quatragenarian or octogenarian) friends!

The metaphor of the blissful plateau is apt because most people are not striving to be the president of the United States, I know I am certainly not. We are all looking for the blissful plateau where we can establish a routine of a life we love and appreciate. In a time of unclear leadership, however, we need to be our own boss (as my dad would say).

In typing class we used to practice the line “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country”, something that I imagine had something to do with finding almost every letter on the keypad, but the message is ingrained in my mind forever. Rather than the very 20th C. notions of man and country, let’s think about person and life. Now is the time for all of us to take this time of uncertainty and frustration and carve out whatever part of life we wish to make our own. The road will be unsettling, but never underestimate your own resilience. Change with the world, so that the changes that are made, reflect the life you and others want to live.

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About 30 Ways of Walking

Gina Liotta's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, Slate, The Paterson Literary Review, LIPS, and The Healing Muse, among others. She lives, writes and teaches in New York.
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3 Responses to You Are Not Alone

  1. You are so right. We get these mixed messages. Some people and institutions view us as fully formed and fixed onto a certain path with no way onto another. Others view our lives as brimming with options, and see nothing but possibility before us. We want a blissful plateau, but we also expect greatness. Can we have both?

    More importantly you hit on the key problem of our generation: too much praise and too many over realistic expectations. There is only room for a few people at the top because the very nature of hierarchy rests upon a few being held above the rest. Therefore, one’s chances of becoming the best at anything are always very slim and rely upon a mixture of chance and serious hard work.

    On one final note, although you are not explicitly saying this, I think as women we were misguided about how hard it would be to find and maintain the success we imagined in our careers. I cannot think of any woman I personally know who has a career that I envy, but I can name a handful of men. I see my female friends having to make more very difficult choices in their careers. This is something for which we were most definitely not prepared.

  2. Monica says:

    I read your post earlier but didn’t have a chance to make my comment.

    I do believe you’re right about moving ourselves forward with the times but despite the fact that I love tech and all the gadgetry that comes along with it, I find myself wondering where this will all lead us in the future.

    I know I’m dating myself here, but when I was younger, there was a human element to everything we did, even if we lived alone or never married. The human element began to erode with (and of course, this is just my humble opinion) the elimination of the front porch, the invention of the electric clothes dryer, and the need for privacy fences. With these three elements out of the picture, even the man or woman who lived alone knew their neighbors and almost all the people who lived around them. Enter more technology and we have children and young adults who no longer even want to have a conversation on the telephone! Everything is digital and far removed from the human element. We telecommute. We “find” long-lost friends on social mediums who we speak with daily but haven’t seen in over 20 years and they probably live around the corner from us.

    I’m all for moving forward and I believe I’m living the life I want to live, with a few exceptions, but I think it’s wise for us to keep an eye on the rear view mirror as well.

    • Absolutely. It’s about a sense of balance. I have tremendous nostalgia for life in the prior millennium. I miss rotary phones. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and thorough comments. Thanks for reading and following along.

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