Sometimes I miss being younger. It was almost yesterday that I was in my twenties, full of energy, thinking I had all the answers, heading into the future to make my mark. Thirty years later I’m approaching my fifty-second New Year’s eve. And it’s been dreary and overcast and that always makes me quiet and introspective.
I have friends, and even some family members, who have been fighting getting older. They dye their hair, get facelifts and join dancing schools and buy sports cars. I wonder why I am so out of step with everyone else my age. Why am I not afraid of the approaching winter of my life? Why am I not staving off the grey hair and searching for an elixir to give me back my youth?
I look back at the bold, outgoing, self-confident girl I was and I cringe. I wouldn’t go back and relive my teens for anything, not for an instant. My teen years were not carefree and joyous, they were filled with anxiety and questions, and feeling like I never fit in anywhere. Maybe I was just born old, and I’ve always been out of step. But I like my over-forty years. The kids are older and I don’t have to walk the floor at night with a collicky baby and worry about them crossing the road. Editors like my writing and ask me for more. Total strangers apparently think I look wise, and they tell me things about their lives while we stand in checkout lines and parking lots.
When I was a teen, I worried about why I had so few friends. It wasn’t because I was unliked. But along the way I learned that there was a world of difference between friendly aquaintances and real friends…and that real friends were very rare. I had a lot of friendly aquaintances, but only one or two real friends. Like my friend Susan. We started the first grade together back in Towson Elementary School. Our birthdays are only a month apart. We were best friends until she moved in the ninth grade. We reconnected when we were in our twenties and have stayed connected ever since. We remember each other’s birthdays and keep in touch across the miles.
And there’s Sandra, probably one of my closest friends and kindred spirits on the planet. I think we were cloned or something. Our lives could not have been more different, and yet our minds could probably not be more in harmony. How could two paths so widely divergent produce such similar mindsets? It’s a mystery. But we can finish each other’s sentences and go for days without talking, and then pick up the phone or instant messenger, and be caught up without missing a beat.
When I was younger, I loved music. From my kindergarten years I dreamed of being a singer. I can’t imagine my life without music. But I don’t think I appreciated it anywhere close to the way I do now. Before I heard good harmonies and great lyrics and liked what I heard. I memorized my favorite songs, and enjoyed a wide variety of styles. But now I hear exquisite harmonies. I am thrilled by background sounds added to music (like this great electronic guitar sound Joe Walsh apparently added to the track of “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture” and the hair on the back of my neck still stands up when I hear an old Art Garfunkel ballad where he hits a high note with just the right punch, effortlessly light and steady. The sound of a violin in the still night air. And close harmonies (like “No More Walks in the Wood” that I feature on here). Sometimes these sounds are so thrilling I don’t want to breathe lest the sound of my breathing interfere with a second of it.
I’d rather be older, with gray hair and softer shape, with an appreciation of things that are so precious and intangible it’s hard to describe them. I only dimly recognized them in my youth, but now they are the essence of what makes life beautiful and important. These subtleties that I’ve learned to hear and see, they are so much more interesting than the surface stuff I had when I was younger.