My neighbor says anything we plant
This week, I went to the beach and didn't think about my thighs.
I didn't think about my wobbly arms, I didn't think about my belly or my breasts. I wore a bathing suit I think is cute and I played in the water and I did warrior poses with my feet buried in sand. I jumped in waves and ran into the frigid north Atlantic sea.
As it turns out, I'm loving being almost-30. I'm lucky that, for all the other things they have and haven't been, many of the women in my life have been the type to vocally celebrate aging. I was terrified of puberty as a child, because even at seven I knew that I was destined for the kind of breasts and hips that came with Consequences, but I've never been afraid of 30, or 40, or 50, because those women always told me that getting older is liberating. I've had people act as if mentioning that I'm almost thirty is somehow selling myself short, wasting my potential somehow by failing to adequately honor my twenties, and the response baffles me. I can't wait, I tell them. I can't wait.
As a culture, we place a lot of importance on Potential. We celebrate birth with comments about all the things a child might be, and then we spend the next twenty years or so of a child's life with a glittering image of their generation as world-changers, dreamers, fixers.
Then a generation hits twenty-five or so, and we stop talking about them that way. They settle into careers, homes, families; the realities of life take over and the celebration of their potential wanes. They are Adults now, we seem to say, and so their potential has reached its limits.
I think that's a tremendous error. It has some micro effects on individuals, of course; it leads to disillusionment and fatigue, and probably contributes not a small amount of depression and anxiety. It also, however, has a significant impact on the macro culture, because what we tell ourselves when we stop seeing potential in anyone over 25 is that strength and change and hope can only ever come from someone else.
I had a dream the other night, in which I was part of a leadership camp, leading the grade fours. They were doing all the things grade fours do, being all the things kids that age are. I love that age group; they're young enough that most of them aren't feigning disillusionment, young enough to still experience wonder, but old enough to have the beginnings of real, powerful ideas about themselves, each other, and the world. Nine- and ten-year-olds are powerful in a way that's hard to miss if you spend any amount of time with them.
In the dream, Lin-Manuel Miranda was a guest speaker at the camp (the man often plays this role in my dreams, deal). After his speech, the kids were working on a project while the adults watched, and LMM was standing next to me. I said something along the lines of "these kids, they're going to change the world someday."
He was silent for a moment, but then said, "Yeah, but the adults are making a world for them to work with. You're all doing the work."
Because this was a dream, of course, I absolutely pulled that lesson out of my own psyche somewhere, but it's been lingering with me. We are doing the work. There's no time to wait for the kids to catch up and do it; it must be done now, and whatever they'll have to deal with will be because of what we do right now.
Life expectancy is about 80 years in most of the western world. Thirty isn't even half of that time. There's a lot of potential energy still coiled up in thirty. Millennials still have plenty of time to change the world, and we're doing it all the time. As we're trying to cobble together lives from pieces that never seem to look the way they did for our parents, we're building something new. Whatever we build is the foundation our generation's children will stand on to do their own building.
The work isn't the future. The work is now, and we're already doing it.
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