As far as work is concerned, I feel like I’ve been running over ground I might have covered decades ago. So many people I know are talking about retirement already and I’ve only been working in a committed way outside of the home for less than a dozen years. Age is gaining ground on me and I am thankful for what many consider an entry-level academic job. My ex has found a way to begin drawing his social security. Me, I’m periodically feeling a heart-gripping anxiety and the press of my own mortality against my back.
I’ve spent so many years trusting people I shouldn’t have trusted. Each of those relationships of misplaced loyalty has left its mark on me. Mostly, the effect has been to keep me spinning my wheels, until quite recently.
Here are some things I did mostly of my own volition: raising a bunch of kids I gave birth to; the giving birth to part, too; educating the kids at home and on the farm; loving them, working at teaching them to love and respect themselves and other people. These things I never regret.
Back before the raising kids part, even before the getting married part, I chose to leave a university in Ohio and drive to California to begin some kind of new life with a young man I never married and never had kids with. That was okay. I sure don’t regret that choice. It took my life in a far different direction than it might have gone, but all of that converged here — on this farm and with these kids and doing the work I do now.
What else? I’ve learned to grow some food in a high desert. We’ve raised some animals. I returned to graduate school and to work outside of my home, off the farm. These are things that I don’t regret.
Through professional training, I learned to walk the land for traces of the past, trying to save some remnant of that. I’ve learned to teach other people about these things.
I’ve learned to care for other people in ways I never understood before I left Ohio. I’ve learned more about love. I’ve learned more about gratitude. I’ve learned how to have a good laugh. These are simple enough, right? These are things I can do.
And these are things I don’t regret. Why is it I feel disheartened when I think a friend may be assessing my poor financial fortunes as making bad choices? In fact, that may not be her intention at all. It probably isn’t. Still. I know I cannot be alone — I am not the only person who is fast running up on “retirement age” and knowing I do not have the financial resources to retire in the sense that others are talking about. If our choices have been different, does that mean they were bad choices?
(Next time I’ll probably say, “no.” I’ll try not to do too much rationalizing. I’ve become all too good at rationalizing and I’m sick and tired of it. Plus I need to analyze what exactly what it is I am doing. I need to do that so I can keep moving along…)