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The More Things Change…

It’s my birthday in a few days.  Sunday to be precise.  One of those scary birthdays that ends in a zero.  One of those make-me-(re)evaluate-my-life birthdays.  I’m kind of having a hard time with this one.  I wonder if this gets harder with each scary zero-ending birthday, or if this one is just particularly scary because I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be at this age.  My last decade birthday was kinda rough too, so maybe it’s just par for the course.  Funny how this works.  I really won’t be any different on Sunday than I am today, but one of my identifiers will change; a new label will be used to describe me.  I will use a new label to describe myself.  

The last time I felt this alienated from my own identity was when I acquired a second citizenship and saw my face peering out of a new passport.  I guess this is really not that different.  After all, age, citizenship, they’re both just social constructions.  Means we use to define ourselves.  And others.  But do they really mean anything?  For I still don’t identify with my new citizenship, and I sure as heck don’t feel this old. 

Well, sometimes I do.  Like when I talk to my students about the Cold War.  That’s definitely a very strange experience.  The Cold War was absolutely defining of my youth.  So much so that I grew up firmly believing that I would be vapourized in a fiery hell storm long before I reached this age.  Anyone of my age bracket (or older) knows what I’m talking about, without question.   But for many of my students, the defining political event of their youth was 9/11.  The Cold War means nothing to them.  A relic of the past.  History.

Yet have things really changed?  

When I was growing up, I worried the world was going to end in nuclear holocaust.  The collapse of the Soviet Union offered a us – earthlings – a whole new start.  A world of possibilities.  No more worrying about being vapourized!  The future looked bright.  Then we started experiencing acts of terrorism, each one worse than the other.  Only a decade after the collapse of the USSR, 50 years of Cold War was forgotten and we now were waging a “war on terror.”  

And if that wasn’t bad enough, this decade we have to worry about Global Warming.  And who knows what that will bring?  In 1990 I believed we were on the verge of building a better world.  Instead, we are back to being in a Cold War situation.  Only now the enemy is invisible.  How is this possible?

Or am I just too focused on the negative, caught up in the social constructions of doom and gloom used to distract and manipulate?  

Maybe that’s it.  

Over the past few days, I’ve been receiving words of wisdom from friends who have survived this landmark birthday.  One wrote to say that “there are no mistakes.  Everything is as it should be, and we are where we are meant to be.  The trick is to make the most of it.”  Another wrote more bluntly (and put somewhat more colourfully): “Accept that the past was a mess – you can’t do anything about it.  Just make damn sure not to screw up the future.” 

I like these thoughts.  I can apply them to myself, and I can apply them to our planet.  Not that I think my past was a mess, but I certainly am not where I thought I would be at this age.  And our planet is definitely not where I thought it would be either.  But that doesn’t mean that the future can’t be bright.  We just have to make sure we don’t screw it up.  

2 Responses

  1. I share many of your sentiments… I actually got poo-pooed the other day when I spoke of how we are always trying to find ways to define ourselves when we feel inherently lost (I used titles at work as an example and got a bit of backlash… no more forums for me!).

    My identity was shook up when I legally changed my name not once… but twice… (a convoluted story which of I am still in the midst).

    I grew up with the same fears and still wake up with similar fears to your own (and realize there are a lot of things beyond my control). It did make me feel a bit better to read this: http://www.abhota.info/end1.htm and realize that fear is just part of being human… but something I really want to work on.

    My beau’s birthday is tomorrow so cake baking is calling me… I will check out if you have any cake recipes too! Happy birthday and thanks for a thought-provoking blog.

  2. Wow – thanks for sharing that link! A history of the apocalypse – how fascinating! I wonder why we have been so obsessed with the world ending for soooo long? How strange, no?

    Sorry, no cake recipes I’m afraid. I’ve been falling behind on posting recipes of late, and I do have a few new ones to add. I also have a bunch of photos to post. I will try and get to both as soon as I can! I actually have done very little baking since starting this local diet because I still haven’t figured out how to replace some key ingredients. This is mostly because I haven’t had time to do so. Perhaps I should make that a summer project.

    I hope you and your beau had a fun time celebrating his birthday, and I look forward to reading your blog! Cheers

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