Thoughts on middle age

Today Barack Obama turned 48. I find it strange to realize that I am only five months and ten days younger than the President of the United States. He graduated from high school in June 1979, same as I did. Because I finished college in three years (mostly from taking dual credit courses in high school), I graduated from college a year before he did.

I don’t know what I thought, back when I was young, that I would have accomplished by age 48. I simply couldn’t imagine myself as a middle-aged woman. I certainly had plans to accomplish a lot, whether it was writing books or getting advanced degrees or becoming known as a shining example in whatever field I pursued. I certainly didn’t expect to be a married mother of two boys, virtually unknown outside of my limited circle of acquaintances (work, church, community groups).

I don’t regret the choices that brought me to this particular place at this time. (There are certainly choices I do regret, but not those.) I would still like to write at least one book someday. But I lost interest in getting a Ph.D. by the time I finished my first Masters degree, and today I appreciate learning more for its own sake than the possible acclaim it could bring me. I’ve become content with being an introvert, and realized that the kind of wide contact with the public that generally both precedes and follows fame simply doesn’t fit my personality well.

Still, when I see what someone else the same age has done in the same number of years, I can’t help but wonder what it is that propels some people so far, while most of us are content to play on a much smaller stage. I think my co-workers would tell you that I’m very good at what I do (even while they are annoyed at having to redo documents I deemed inadequate). But I would rather, if I had the chance, be very good at doing something connected with a grander purpose than helping my company pass its annual Sarbanes-Oxley audit.

Today I registered my sons for school. My older son is a de facto section leader in the band (not officially so designated because there are so few French horn players now that they are lumped in with another section). As we waited in line, a very young-looking boy greeted my older son, and as he left my son told me, “That’s one of my freshmen.” I feel proud, seeing my son take leadership to help younger students along the way.

My younger son is taking swimming lessons. After years of being so nervous in the swimming pool that he would panic if he couldn’t hold onto a wall, he is making wonderful progress. It’s still a long way to earning Aquanaut in Cub Scouts, but if he continues bravely battling his fear as he has the past week and a half, he’ll make it. I also have seen him recently more concerned about giving to others than getting for himself.

One can certainly raise good kids and also have a prominent public career (though that can also be a huge challenge). But I decided years ago that one of my primary goals was to raise boys who would be emotionally and spiritually well-prepared for adult life. (I want them to be well-educated too, but intellectual pursuits come pretty naturally in our family.)

Whatever else I’ve done in 47 and a half years, I think I’m doing reasonably well in that regard. For which I am thankful to God, my husband, and the boys themselves for their part.


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