Beginnings, endings, and anniversaries

I just learned that a couple of blogs I’ve read more or less since their inceptions are closing up shop — Dame Eleanor Hull (which Dame E began writing in 2007) and A Ianqui in the Village (Ianqui’s been blogging for 10 years!) — and it got me thinking about time, beginnings, endings, and cycles in my life. No, I’m not closing up shop here — not yet anyway — but I am nearing my 8-year blogiversary (on September 5, at least by the old blog’s first post), which makes this blog pretty long in the tooth! My dog and my blog are about the same age, but my dog is middle-aged, while my blog is elderly. (“Blog years” totally should be an idiom, just like “dog years.”)

Meanwhile, in other markers of time, 10 years ago I just finished teaching my first week of classes here at Rust Belt University.  My picture on my campus ID is still the picture from 10 years ago and I looked so damn *happy*. I had a tenure-track job! I was finally grown up! 11 years ago I was about to file my dissertation (which also made me happy, but there’s no picture to go with it). 19 years ago I was just beginning graduate school (my pictured self on that ID also looks pretty happy). In the personal realm and also a subject of happiness: Bullock and I are looking forward to our 10-year relationship anniversary next month. (Yes, we started dating a month after I started working here. We met early after my arrival — my colleague Victoria had a little get-together to introduce everyone. So she kind of set us up without our knowing it. Smart lady.)

On the phone with Virgo Sis the other day, I realized that by my age, my mother was the mother of one college graduate (Virgo Sis — Ms V and Fizzy would follow after), and in three years she’d be a grandmother to Ms V’s first born. Just thinking that I could have a college-age kid freaks me out. The idea that I could theoretically be a grandmother within a few years is just *crazy*. Also, thinking about the fact that my mom and Ms V both had their first kids at age 22 also makes me think “That’s crazy!” Yes, people have kids even younger, but in no way would my 22-year-old self have been ready for it. And the guys I was with then…well, I’ll just point out that they either only just started having kids in the last few years or also still don’t have kids, so clearly they wouldn’t have been ready back then, either. Or else we just all thought we weren’t. But yeah, in a parallel universe, it’s totally possible that I could have grown-up or nearly grown-up kids, and I get that my traditional-aged students sometimes look at me as parent-aged. But then some of them think I’m younger than I am, because I don’t look/dress/act like their parents. (If I didn’t dye my hair to cover the gray, they might think otherwise!) You know how in the media they say things like “40 is the new 30”? In Rust Belt, sometimes 40 is the old 50. Hard lives or growing up too fast can age you, and there’s a lot of that around here. So can the sun, and people seem to still purposely get tan around here (and to still use the expression “to lay out” — meaning to lie purposely in the sun in order to get a tan — which I hadn’t heard since I was a teen). But whether they think I’m closer in age to their parents or them, most of the younger students still grant me my authority.  Most of the non-traditional ones do, too, but a couple have talked to me in their “mom” voices (so far I haven’t gotten any “dad” voices, thank god). I want to say to them, “In academic years, I am *your* elder, thank you very much.” And yet sometimes I feel like I just arrived out of graduate school.

Time seems very much elastic to me these days — wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, as The Doctor might say:

For that reason, I like to remind myself of its passing now and then. It’s good to keep in mind that any of my students applying to a graduate program this year would be doing it 20 years after I did, and the world of those programs (whether academic or professional) is very different. (And yes, I do give them all the warnings.) That gap and difference is only going to get wider. And though it’s fun to mock the Beloit Mindset List (and it deserves that mockery), it is sometimes a helpful reminder that what seems like a “current” pop-culture reference isn’t. (Though just like I was into the 60s in the 80s, the kids today seem to be into the 90s. Well, some of them. And have you noticed that the whole boho, flippy, floral dress with combat boots look is back? Kelly from 90210 and Lisa Loeb would be so pleased!)

I know it’s normal for time to blend together more as you get older, but I can’t help but think it seems intensified for someone like me, who repeats seasonal/academic cycles — the students don’t age! — and who doesn’t have kids of her own to mark the time more obviously. Of course, at least we *have* seasons here (the weather kind, that is) — in LA I didn’t notice time passing, either, but that’s because the weather was always the same! Or that was my theory, anyway. Or maybe I should just blame graduate school. At any rate, while some things do seem emotionally/psychologically/experientially far back in time to me (applying to graduate school, for example), when I put a number to them (20 years ago), that’s when it seems impossible. I think, also, having not really started my career until my 30s (unless you count graduate school, which I do in some ways and don’t and others), I feel like I shouldn’t yet have reached an age where anything I did as a grown-up could be 20 years ago. According to this Salon article, this may be a common feeling for a segment of “Generation X,” since so many of us, regardless of profession, started our “grown-up” lives later than generations before us. (As my students would say, I found that article really “relatable.” As they say on the interwebs, though, YMMV.) Or maybe it’s just about being 40-something.

I have no idea what I’m trying to say here. Clearly this *post* has gone all wibbly-wobbly. To sum up: 10 years at Rust Belt University and 10 years with Bullock, 8 years as a presence on the intertoobs, and 19 years since I started the graduate program that made it all possible. Oh, and it’s been 6 years since my first book came out and people are still reading it! W00t! Here’s to many more years of successful professional activity and happiness in personal relationships! And maybe I have at least another year of blogging under my belt.

The end (but not really).

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8 thoughts on “Beginnings, endings, and anniversaries

  1. Thanks for this — I’ve been feeling a lot of the same things lately, which I may write about at some point, but I think you’ve nailed several of the reasons that our sense of time feels out of joint: not becoming a grown-up (whatever that means: full-time job, partner, homeownership, etc.) until well into one’s 30s; not having kids; still working with kids or at any rate twentysomethings who as a group never age.

    For the past year or so, I’ve started feeling distinctly middle-aged. Not in a bad way, necessarily (there are good things about being invisible in the way young women never are, or about being given credit for being substantive or responsible), but it’s clear I’m moving into a new life stage.

  2. Yeah, me too — I’m feeling distinctly middle-aged, too, but it kind of snuck up on me. It’s not so much a crisis as “huh, what’s this?” That Salon article, btw, made total sense of this. If you haven’t read it, you should, since you might see a lot of yourself in it, too.

    And I know what you mean about the benefits of the invisibility (or to put it more positively: not being under scrutiny or the object of the gaze), but it’s weird and disconcerting, too. So is the surprise on students’ faces when you mention something pop-cultural that they think you shouldn’t be interested it. I didn’t used to get that surprise!

  3. I never quite know where I belong, generationally. Some folks put my birth year near the end of the baby boom, and that makes sense in some ways (for example, I got through college before the steep rise in public school tuitions got going), but not in other ways (I don’t feel much in common with folks who were coming to adulthood during Vietnam). Others put me in Generation X, but I spent my early 20s pretty distanced from US pop culture, so I don’t feel much connection there.

    At any rate, there are no do-overs or choices about when one is born, so I try to be grateful that I wasn’t born in Europe in 1348 or so.

    I just figured out, though, that I am the age of my younger colleague’s parents, probably. It’s not going to get better, is it?

  4. Ah, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff! I love that. And we hired someone this year who I am quite old enough to parent. Fortunately, I am not going to think of my relationship to new colleague in this way – I will give advice when asked and offer support freely. I will not mother colleagues!

    I’m expecting to have a different perspective on my students based upon my latest parenting moment. Tomorrow we pack up the car and drive Eldest off so she can move into residence. When I meet my own first-year students next week, all I’ll be thinking is “They’re as old as SHE is!” Which could be good or bad because Eldest rocks at writing, proofreading, sight-reading sixteenth-century texts and so forth. Let’s see if my students can match up, eh?

  5. Yeah, I think I get a lot of these feelings, too (though in part because of starting over again in a new profession with colleagues who could be my children). Basically, I have no idea how old I am – I know I must be middle aged by now, but how can that be when I’m still not established in anything! Anyway, will have to go read the Salon article.

  6. A colleague just had a big birthday and was talking about it when I realized that I was already in college when he was born. I’ve taken to just saying I’m an old lady. Then people are surprised because I don’t look like what they think my age should look like. I’ve had some kind of academic employment for 30 years.
    I do think working with students helps us stay young, though I fail every pop culture test ever, and have for 35 years…

  7. Susan, I’ve been failing pop culture tests since I was a teenager. I’m just not into certain things, I guess, and haven’t been. And I’m probably not going to be.

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