So the deal is this: I’m getting old. I can tell because my friends’ kids, babies I once held, are now in high school and college.
It seems just last week my sister announced that I couldn’t wear shorts or pants to a church picnic—a Bill Gothard scene where homeschool families took up entire pews and women were prohibited from gathering because men were concerned about gossip. Now I hear stories of kids who’ve gone over the rails as young adults—and marriages that imploded. Tragic.
But where has the time gone?
Facebook gives my generation (Gen X , baby!) a glimpse into the passage of time, and in particular, childhood school chums.
My glances over the fence aren’t something to be proud of. I’m likely breaking one biblical admonition, maybe two or three. My closest childhood pals are wealthy, beautiful people. They have impressive job titles. Their children attend prep schools. They take vacations on big boats. Everyone is graying appropriately—and maturing according to schedule. They seem gloriously happy, and knowing them, I believe it to be so. I sometimes want their lives.
Clearly I took a different path. I feel less than beautiful, and oftentimes undone. I make less money than I did a few years ago, just a hair above what I made coming out of college. “You are downwardly mobile,” my dad regularly laments. (He worries.) Combined with a lack of financial prowess, there are months of scarcity. I am not yet swirling in contentment… I am still stuck wanting toys at the Apple Store, artisanal bourbon and $22 cigars.
But that different path, I chose it. In college I jumped into activism. After college I became a professional activist. I learned how to wheat paste signs in the dead of night, handle bulk mailings, organize lunchtime protests, run phone banks, and even bail people out of jail (…after I got them arrested). I cultivated these skills in my 20s while my friends did something in an office—things with numbers or design or marketing—work that ultimately made them blissfully successful.
It’s still about the cause with me, and as I’ve grown in heart and spirit, it’s about reaching people on the margins. I work as a writer in global missions—we care for at risk children and those who’ve experienced extreme trauma in the poorest of countries. I volunteer in a faith based role at hospice. In my free time I pal around with my closest friends and their kids. I argue on Facebook. I wrestle with my faith. I bake bread. I tell tall tales. And I spoon with my dogs.
I also have a vision to work overseas (more downwardly mobile…). I hope to serve in a country I deeply love, in places where people labor alone on the edge of death. I know I may die in this place, somewhat broke, but I’ll be in love with Jesus, I’ll take swaths of people with me to heaven, and I’ll be fulfilled. I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m incredibly blessed. Most people in the world don’t have the luxury of being “fulfilled” (a blog for another time).
I can’t say I gave up a wealth for something nobler. That’s arrogant and patently untrue. I had a shot at a successful career once and marriage blew by a few times. But life called me in edgier, loftier directions that I didn’t want to pass up. There was nothing noble about it.
So what can I say? I am a bleeding heart liberal with a healthy twist of conservative. Along with that comes a steady stream of wickedly smart, passionate, committed people. My heart and mind are constantly engaged, constantly challenged. In short, I can’t imagine having taken another path.
However, the older I get, I suspect I’ll become more wistful about what lurks on the other side of the fence. There’s no need to deny it or over-spiritualize the situation with myself or the masses. It just is.