I’m not sure when I got old. For most of my life I’ve been the youngest. I was the little sister. My birthday is in June, so I was the youngest in my class. When I became a teaching assistant in grad school I was the youngest TA at 22. Then when I became a reference assistant at a public library at 25, I was the youngest reference assistant. Later when I started working at another public library, I was one of the youngest employees there as well. When I first got my current job, I was one of the youngest.
Than came Young Alice. I call her Young Alice because she has my name. Which is unfair, because I had it first. Not only that, she has a job that makes way more money than mine makes. While filling in, I decided I really wouldn’t like that job because you get a lot more students expecting you to help them, whereas at the moment I work on the far end of the second floor and no one comes here unless they really, really want to, or more likely, they’re extremely lost. So it’s not like I’m jealous of her position per say. But her age disturbs me.
You see, Young Alice is almost 12 years younger than I am. How is that possible when most of the time I feel like I’m 12, even though my eldest child is almost 14? And these babies are just going to keep coming because I keep getting older while new people continue to be born and get jobs and crap. WTF. This is not the way I ever pictured it. You never picture growing old when you’re young. It’s like, I will be this way FOREVER, yay!
Young Alice is where I was so many years ago. Young, idealistic, full of energy. I realize now why some women get really irritated at younger women. It’s like, will you get older and get jaded with life already? But honestly, I bear Young Alice no ill will. I don’t want to be that age again. I’d like to have that energy and awesome metabolism, sure, but you couldn’t pay me to go back to 26.
I like where I am now, because – dare I say it – I actually have a little wisdom to offer. I offer it to my children, all the time. Know when to hold ’em, I say. Know when to fold ’em. I talk to them about my values, and why I have them, while trying to precariously balance between telling them how I feel and telling them what they should feel. Yet it really is a gift to be able to offer the younger generation some of what you’ve learned. It’s something that some of my former bosses, as bitter as they were, didn’t get because they were busy being jealous of that all revered youth. Youth is fleeting, but intelligence (or dumbness) is not. It’s with you forever, or at least until you start losing your memory and pooping in your pants again. Okay, that wasn’t a great endorsement for growing older.
Sure, there is a lifetime ahead of me of working at a job that – no matter how much it fits me – is going to be long and boring a lot of the time. And eventually I’ll get gray hairs and wrinkles – I think I may have some wrinkles on my forehead though I try not to look too hard. Because then I see the very faint mustache that no one else notices but me. I hope. So far my kids appreciate what I have to offer, though I’m well aware there will come a day when, as my mother has said, I will turn into Cassandra from Greek Mythology. She knew the future, but no one believed her. Welcome to the teenage years.
I am becoming living history. I remember the Oklahoma City bombing and the babies that died. I remember 9/11 and the terror we felt. I remember what it was like to carry two babies inside me. I remember what it was like to be a young mom, poor and half-insane from sleep deprivation. I remember what it was like to fail, to feel hopeless, and to rise back again.
Everything that has happened to me, good and bad, has shaped who I am now. I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes – but not nearly enough. Because I’ve been afraid to try. I don’t want my kids to be afraid. I have the power to help them with that. And one day, if I’m lucky, I’ll live long enough to be a grumpy old bag that goes to the library and annoys the crap out of people but gets away with it cause isn’t she sweet? Young Alice may be the one helping me find that elusive book that doesn’t exist cause I just made up.
Till then, there’s a lot of life left to do. Time to get to it. As soon as I’m done watching this youtube video with cats.