I guess this year is a milestone age. So I’m therefore obliged to say something about getting to it.
No, ok, I’ll do it.
Much of what I’ve been ponderously pondering over the last year, as I prepare to go into my 50th year, is what part of me is ME, and what part of me is me as a member of a community. Some things have filtered out via difficult trials I’ve undergone, particularly since I became a mother and became a Type 1 diabetic:
- Being a mother is the most amazing thing in the world.
- It’s incomprehensible to the working world of the United States what exactly that means, and so unless you have resources to pretend that you’re not really a mother, that you can make all your “ass on the official workplace chair” hours when there is no telecommuting program at your work, your career opportunities WILL languish.
- If you’re struggling with healthcare problems as serious as Type 1 diabetes combined with your perimenopausal transitions, which few even in the healthcare world really get (though that is starting to change with the younger female medical professionals), and this limits your hours, you’re REALLY screwed in terms of advancement. You will even be pushed aside and people will forget that even as you come in to work every day, even when you’re really not feeling well, have to deal with the constant monitoring of the disease and struggle to be supported rather than pitied, you are actually still a breathing, capable worker who has institutional knowledge and can build from there. This continues to be my struggle.
- Working and living in a world where few understand what you are coping with, and no one cares, to the point where you’re forgotten – well why would it be surprising that you become aloof and isolate yourself more from people with that selfish mindset? It’s tiring to explain this over and over, that no, you can’t show up at a party miles away on the weekend (no one lives near one another in LA, and if they do, they never see each other) because a) it might not be a good day for you health-wise, and b) you have a family with young children who need you and this is your other (more important) job every day, and that’s IT. But yet, you do your jobs every day, and you get what you have to get done, with a heart.
- Being in this doubly difficult life situation for eight years now has worn me down. I’m just really, really tired. And I SO feel for people in my shoes, or worse, who struggle against these barriers every day, and how at some point, their energy just starts to keep flowing away and away and away as time passes. When you are not well and when you are getting older, that cotton inside the jewelry box needs to be there. But you can’t create it for yourself if you do not have resources.
- So in the 10 years since I was 40, I’ve learned ever more empathy for the struggles of others, become much more attuned to the injustices of the larger community where everyone must fall in line or get left behind, and struggled to figure out a way to keep my head up, find some hope, something new to look forward to – because I’m the type of person who needs to learn new things, progress, keep building and advancing and using my knowledge in a practical way. But, when you are in a support role, particularly as a woman, from whom support is always assumed, and as a person reliant on medicine to live, it is very, very difficult to fly the way you flew when you were just a girl and when you were a healthy person. If you look to others to help, prepare to be disappointed. It’s the other half of the equation. Most everyone, in the end, looks out for themselves first and foremost, and maybe, always. In the work world at least, the world outside the home, being charitable is an afterthought, and it’s selective. If you refuse to be calculating and ruthless when necessary, it’s hard to be in that kind of world. I refuse to be that kind of person. So, I’ve learned that I want to help others first, and that has come at a cost. But the opposite to me is against my belief that we should all help one another, life is hard enough, that it is a joyous experience to give, that everyone deserves a fair chance to learn something new (and there are always new things to learn!), that you take care of those who are behind you in years and experience. If you aspire to be better, noble in your heart and intentions, and you know that these are real things and not “ideal” things, that they make the world a better place, then you LIVE your beliefs. And you’re not corny about it!
- During the 10 years since I was 40, I had a bit of confusion about what I am as a woman. For much of this small amount of time, I for some reason went back to being a teenager in a certain way, I got a little more “girly.” Within the last year, I have realized that “girly” was a tag that I kicked out of my way as a young person for a good reason. I am feminine, but I am also masculine. I know how to love, and I also know how to fight – with strategy, with precision, and without regrets when there’s no other choice (and believe me, I SCOUR the Choice Drawer before that happens). This latter quality, I am remembering, is a result of having grown up where I did, at the time when I did. When I picked up a copy of Mobb Deep’s The Infamous this year, after reading about Prodigy’s death and also many articles of praise about this particular album, I remembered that though I now live in LA for 19 years in October, at heart I will ALWAYS be a Brooklyn girl who grew up during a time when street smarts were absolutely life-saving. Never trust anyone you don’t really know. To do so is foolish, and that has borne out over and over in one permutation or another, particularly in the last 10 years. Life is not flip-flops and flimsy, body-revealing clothing, false eyelashes and blonde highlights, manicures and thinking that it’s necessary to put out for a guy to get a date (wtf, youngins!). It’s armor always on for me now, I have my peoples, and I’m fine with that. I haven’t seen anything else to contradict this thinking in all my 50 years. Nothing.
- Lastly, I really need to think of starting my own “thing” monetarily in my old age, something to keep me going but HAPPY, as long as I can last, as long as I can be there for my peoples. (It won’t be a life of crime, I promise!)