Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who's counting?

"I'm 18, and I don't know what I want" (far right)
Me, for one.  And human beings generally, since we're "gifted" with the twin powers to speak and to count.  (Sometimes being a "time-binding" animal is  just a curse.)

While we're on the subject of anniversaries, I thought I'd write about a couple of recent events that have put me in a tallying mood.

First, my friend Jane posted that she'd moved her oldest child to college.  How could it be possible that someone I met during my freshman year of college could be the parent of a college freshman?

Then I saw this video that WVU's publicity office created about freshman move-in day:

Perhaps I was seeing it through Jane's eyes as I watched, because even though I don't have children, I found myself identifying with the parents.  I'm certainly (by the numbers, anyway) more than old enough to have college-aged kids, but it took the reality of someone I knew in college taking her child to college for the full import of that to sink in.

As I've discussed here before, I had a rough freshman year.  Only in the last few weeks, however, have I come to appreciate that it was also rough for my parents.  I was the youngest of four, with fourteen years between me and the oldest.  How difficult it must have been for my parents to let me go after thirty-plus years of parenting.  How ridiculous that it's taken me 28 years to realize this.

That number seems to keep coming up, too.  Facebook recently reminded me that my niece's 28th birthday was approaching.  Twenty-eight?!  She was born, coincidentally, the fall of my freshman year of college.  I still think I am 28 most of the time, so it couldn't be possible that she's now that age.

When I turned 23, a friend told me that 23 was the number of chaos.  For sure, that year was pretty chaotic--I left the job I took after my college graduation to start graduate school, and my first real relationship disintegrated when he left for graduate school elsewhere.

A couple of days ago I turned twice 23.  Does that mean twice the chaos this year?  I hope not, though since I'm going up for tenure and Tom's going on the job market, there's bound to be some drama.  I will say, though, that I wouldn't be 23, or for that matter 28, again if I were given the chance.  I'm enjoying middle age, even if I'm astounded at the way time starts to warp and contract at this stage of life. 

They're all meaningless numbers, I know--useful only to provide perspective, in the way you're advised to keep your eyes on the horizon when you're on a boat to counteract the rocking, potentially sickening motion of the waves.   But they still count.  And more importantly, all those years count, too.


Christy said...

I love that we both seem absorbed by this question of age this week, and that when push comes to shove, we wouldn't trade where we are for where we once were. Happy 46th to you! You seem to get better with age, my friend.

Beth said...

Hey, I'm twice 23, too. That was apparently a very good year. One of my college friends has a kid who has GRADUATED from college. It's really something to ponder, especially as the new crop of freshman are on campus and they all look twelve years old.

Susan said...

Hey, I had totally forgotten that I once had hair long enough to put in a ponytail. Embarrassingly, I still have the T-shirt I'm wearing in the photo - "Massachusetts grown and fresher." Frugal, not cheap, right?

I dunno. I think I might like to be back in my 20's, now that I'm starting to face a disintegrating body (must make that PT appointment!) But what I'd really like to return to is being 20 when we were 20, not being 20 now.
Everything seemed more hopeful then. I think it was THE age as much as our age. Now our kids face much higher hurdles to affording a modest 1,000 square foot home or even a job. Such huge gaps between the rich and the rest of us that weren't there when we were kids. I feel like there wasn't as much vitriol in public life as there is now, but that might just be me looking a the past through rose-colored glasses.