As 1975 faded into the USA’s bicentennial year 1976, I recall thinking that the next significant year to come along would be the century’s turn into 2000. I couldn’t fathom it really. It was 24 years away, I was only 15 years old, and my life’s future was a vague, scary thing at the time. Allow me to give you a little mathematical aging perspective: My Mother was the same age then that I am now; My Grandmother was younger (by ten years) than my Mom is now; All of my nephews are now older than I was then. Ironically, I have once again reached an age wherein, if one of my friends were to become pregnant, I’d say, “Oh no… you poor thing! How did that happen? What are you going to do?!” I’ve once again reached an age where I roll my eyes and say, “Aw geez… Mommmmmmmm!” I just don’t get sent to my room for it any more.
1976. It was a time before cell phones, personal computers, iPods, cds and dvds, Wii and Xbox. It was before cable TV - in fact, there were only about 5 TV channels and you changed them by getting up, walking across the room, and turning a dial. It was way before any threat of a Y2k computer panic was even thought of. Aids was unheard of. Pot was cheap. The only synthetic clothing was made of polyester and no one under 30 would be caught dead in it. The only synthetic music was the occasional moog rift (groovy, man). Viet Nam vets were young, unappreciated and misunderstood with some still trying to find their way home (now they‘re accountants and lawyers and part of the fast driving BMW & Lexii herd). Fast food was still a novelty. Microwaves were just a scientific experiment. TV dinners were foil wrapped, full meal concoctions that took 45 minutes to cook in the oven, and were only utilized when the folks headed out to dinner. My piano lessons were $2.00 a week for a half hour lesson. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a perfect time - there was plenty of unease all over the world. Everything was changing and changing fast… faster than anyone could figure things out... yet, most of us wouldn’t have believed a look into 2009 if we‘d had the opportunity to do so, 2009 would have looked like cheesy sci-fi. I don’t recall hearing anyone say they were bored (but then, in my household, those words would earn you extra chores). It wasn’t an innocent time by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t ever recall feeling overly stimulated by a flood of information (as I do now). News came from the daily paper or the 6 o’clock news on one of the three major TV stations (ABC, CBS, or NBC). Any further information required lugging around an encyclopedia (usually at least 5 years out of date, more likely 10-15) or a dictionary.
Now here we are at the end of the first decade in the 21st Century. The year 2000 and the Y2k anxieties are distant past. I’m far from the scared, semi-innocent 15 year old dreading my future and watching the clock turn as I listen to Chicago perform on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve. I’m a (mostly) self-assured 48 year old waiting, with a modicum of anticipation, to see what happens next. I worry, on a basic level at least, about some things - I worry about the future that’s being left to the children in my family; I worry that, with the overabundance of gadgets and information available to them, they won’t get to experience a true innocence of childhood; I worry that we’re destroying so much natural beauty (whether by design or by flaw); I worry that people don’t slow down enough to appreciate their lives; I worry that the seemingly prevalent anger in the world will finally overwhelm the gentler, more thoughtful, more sensible side of humanity; that we‘ll either self-destruct or be reduced to a primitive, survival mode species. But those are worries that I keep at bay, tucked away for those o’dark o’clock sleepless times when I shake my head at myself for fretting over the uncontrollable.
So, here we are. Twenty-ten is just a shuffle away and I won‘t even try to guess at what the cards hold. I have enough hours of tunes on my iPod to carry me days into the next decade without a single tune being repeated. I have meals prepared and frozen that I can nuke in a matter of minutes, should I get hungry. I have DVDs and 300 channels to watch on TV with ease of pushing a button. I have a computer that connects me to pals and family and information all over the globe. It’s a good time to be alive and middle-aged. It’s a fascinating time. It’s a time that is flying by with amazing (and sometimes alarming) velocity. It’s a time when, to borrow from ol’ Chuckie Dickens, we are at our best and at our worst.
Still, I firmly believe that it is a time to celebrate. It is a time to not only look forward, but to look forward to. It is a time that we humans are informed enough and aware enough that we ought to be at our best… if we’d only relax. It’s a time, in my own life, when I understand the grip of mortality - if the USA is still around to celebrate her tricentennial, I won’t be around to raise a glass to her- and I'm okay with that. Everything is flying by so fast. I swear I can feel the earth spin as I watch the stars at night. As much as I want it all to slow down, I know it won’t. It’ll only go faster, and I’ll be reading back on this (gods willing) as we dangle on the edge of 2020. I wonder what my 58 year old self will think of my 48 year old self. Hopefully I’ll be able to look at my grayer, more wrinkled image in the mirror and say, “You’re alright girl. You’re alright.”
It’s a time to celebrate. We’ll never be here again. And so...
Happy New Year!
Happy New Decade!
I wish you happiness and peace.