Monday, January 11, 2016

55 Thoughts

Having a birthday and blog creates an irresistible urge to share private thoughts about the matter.  The purpose is not to purvey for additional birthday greetings. That consideration is of little value at my age. Instead, a post offers an opportunity for any writer to unload some thoughts that weigh on the mind and somehow organize them, thus reducing their impact in some small way.

Clearly, turning 55 has individual connotations for people, depending on their situation and culture.  For example, in America, most people would consider you old and irrelevant while in Japan, you are still quite young and ready to take on a leading role in society. In Israel, I would consider it an age of respect. Specifically, I am still productive, more than ever in some ways, but clearly not part of the leading edge of society.  Thus, I deserve respect as an elder while not yet being invisible like a retired person.

Technology is the shibboleth of this tendency.  I do not own a smart phone. The reason is not financial but, peculiarly, I simply don’t see any need for it. For me, as a member of the previous generation, a phone is a phone, period, while a computer is a computer; never the twain shall meet. Even more old-fashioned, I feel no need to be connected by Facebook, Pininterest or any other social media.  My work as an English lecturer provides me with more than enough social interaction while my daily phone calls to my immediate family members are also more than enough for me. This lack of need to be connected with the hundreds and thousands of people through technology is clearly alien to my students and their generation. Yet, as with many matters, I have no problem with my “eccentricity.”

At the same time, I feel a bit privileged, if not superior, to have grown up in the pre-computer age in that I spent my free time reading books and filling my mind with “useless” knowledge that I find extremely useful in my two professions, translating and teaching.  On the contrary, I am continually shocked by the lack of background knowledge of my very intelligent engineering students, who can run circles around me on any technical device but have almost no idea of the world before they were born. I am not quite sure who is more handicapped, they or I.

On an interpersonal level, most people by the age of 55 have gone through some traumatic event in their life.  In my case, I had five interesting years involving a divorce and a difficult situation with my daughter. The main lesson of such an experience is that happiness depends on your relations with a very small number of people.  I invest my time and energy on them; everybody else can wait.

In short, as approach my double nickel birthday on Friday, I recall that poem by Jacques Brel: je suis comme je suis; je suis fait comme ca.  I am what I am; I am made like that. Based on my genetic history, I have around 35 more years to go.  I plan to enjoy each one as much as I can and do it, as Frank Sinatra said, my way as much as I can.

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