I’m turning forty-one today but, to be honest, getting older has never bothered me. I looked forward to turning thirty, and forty. I found those benchmarks a relief from annoying social pressures. But this year is my final year to the finish line of my best working model, my own mother’s life, which ended at forty-two years. I have no life-threatening conditions which is more than I can say for some of my friends so the self-involvement here is pathetic, without a doubt. But what saddens me about the idea of this being my last year isn’t dying, it’s what I would be leaving behind.
A piece of Antarctica the size of Delaware broke off this week, and that was not the lead story. The lead story is the continual drip of the dissolution of our nation’s sovereignty and half the country’s lack of belief in that information.
I remember as a kid, during the height of the AIDS epidemic, some grown-up type told me that every generation has a perceived catastrophic crisis, but it passes. But will it this time? I suppose it will, but our state will change, just like polar ice. This ship seems to be sinking; the state of our union and our planet’s habitability for humans, both steering toward an iceberg the size of Delaware.
I’ve been told by most of the people who know me well that I have towering, unreasonable expectations of people and thus live in perpetual disappointment. But here’s my thing: I just want people to always be trying. I want to believe that the people I know and love, and even those I don’t, don’t want our kids’ lives to be the climapocalypse. That they don’t want our country to devolve into an Orewellian dystopia. I want to know people are trying to solve the big problems. I just want us all acknowledge that we can always do better. That self-awareness is a strength, not a weakness.
I don’t know how to approach this year. With hope that engagement will lead to change? That seems to pose a strong risk of the painful disappointment to which I am so prone. Or with acceptance that my daughter’s life will be challenged by political and environmental catastrophes beyond anything we can fathom? That seems depressing.
When my mother died I was seven, like my daughter is now. When my mother passed it was the 1980s, a time of promise and prosperity (or at least it seemed so to many Americans). I want to know that if this was my last year, we, as a species, are trying our hardest to turn this ship around, back towards promise and prosperity. That we all are. Every day.
So, for my birthday, save the cake and flowers. Try harder. Do more. Give a shit about what the future holds. This is an all hands on deck situation.