The close of each year is always a time of reflection for me, helping me to feel I can begin the next chapter with some sense of what I have learned and how to move forward.
Let’s start with the premise that 2016 was a tough year for a lot of people. We wept over acts of terrorism worldwide, violence in the streets at home, and an international refugee crisis. Even those who were happy with the outcome of the Presidential race still hated the campaign. Collectively, we lost so many influential and beloved icons in the past year: thinkers and writers Elie Wiesel and Edward Albee; pioneers John Glenn and Janet Reno; journalists Gwen Ifill and Morley Safer; musicians including David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, and Prince; sports superstars Muhammed Ali and Arnold Palmer; actors Patty Duke and Alan Rickman; and some very creative people who made us laugh, Gary Marshall, Gary Shandling, and Gene Wilder. Then to top it all off, the final week of the year took George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. Yeah…in many ways this year was a stinker.
Personally, we experienced some wonderful moments in 2016. We proudly watched our younger daughter march across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree. I definitely shed tears of joy and pride as she graduated with honors, and then again as she began her first year at her first choice law school. Our elder daughter faced some challenges in her job, causing her to pursue other opportunities and eventually landing a position she loves while working with some very good people. She also resurrected her love of playing music.
As for us old folks at home, we keep on keeping on. There have been disappointments, but I am not letting them drag me down. Here’s the reality for some of us in our late 50’s: we are being passed over for new opportunities partly due to age. I don’t say that as any kind of slam against young people because I firmly believe there are many outstanding Gen Xers and Millennials who are passionate and doing great work for good causes. But I do share it as a moment of truth for those of us who still feel we have a lot to offer and are seeking professional growth; it’s harder to come by as you get older. Never-the-less, I have learned a number of lessons this year and will carry them into the new year with hope and optimism.
Lesson 1) No matter how old you are, you can still be productive and live your life with purpose. One of my chief role models for productive aging continues to be my mother who just turned 87 and remains active and purposeful daily.
Lesson 2) Keep chasing your passions and make room for new ones as they arise. My husband and I have been blessed to have raised children who are living their lives with purpose and passion and they inspire us daily.
Lesson 3) Good fortune has nothing to do with money. The older I get the more true this becomes. My husband and I will never be wealthy and we are more than okay with that. But we are fortunate to have a wonderful family, a comfortable home, food on the table, and enough that we can support some very worthwhile local causes that help our community.
Lesson 4) Women still have a long way to go to truly break the glass ceiling, but we will continue to work at it. This most recent Presidential election affirmed my beliefs that the smartest, most experienced, most qualified woman can still be shoved aside by a much less qualified and much less prepared man. It’s a tough lesson for feminists, but we don’t back down so the fight continues.
Lesson 5) Anti-intellectualism is not going to get me down and it shouldn’t get you down either. Education remains our greatest asset, and we need to continually strive to be well-educated, civil, polite, people. Smart is still cool, rudeness is still inappropriate, and our ability to get along with one another is crucial. Let’s all work on that in 2017.
Lesson 6) Some people are willing to believe anything just because they want it to be so. This is a tremendous challenge for each of us, personally, and for our nation. Journalism has taken a beating, but it is not dead yet and is working hard to make a come-back. Join me this year in reading at least one more newspaper each day. Read outside of your comfort zone and seek out the truth, not just the information you want. It may be an uphill climb, but we can all do this.
Lesson 7) There is an enormous ideological gap in our country. The gulf seems almost insurmountable. But we need to start somewhere in order to maintain this Republic which we all love. If you’re wondering how the reds and the blues can come together, I will remind you of the color wheel we all learned about in elementary school. Red and blue together make purple. Let’s all choose to be a little more purple. I’m not going to lie to you – this is extra hard for me because I am so blue I’m practically cerulean. But if we can find some common ground I’m willing to try.
My to-do list for 2017 is already laid out. I don’t need resolutions, because deep within me is the resolve that social justice is the core value that keeps our nation strong. My calling for the coming year has already bubbled to the surface. I plan to write a new blog to reflect on my renewed passion for political activism, and my first post is already in draft form. This blog will still be here and I will refocus it towards personal reflections on my aging, yet somewhat active, life. As always, you’ll be free to read either as you see fit. I choose to read a lot, write a bit, and to take action.
Welcome, 2017. Bring it on.