Home

Le Bel Age of 43

Leave a comment

Last week I attended a social function for the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers group I belong to here in Austin.  There was a good showing of about 20 or so, people of all ages and backgrounds and ethnicities who have served in countries all over the world.  Some of them had literally just returned home from their service a few weeks earlier (with glazed eyes and reverse culture shock); some, like me, had been back for many years.  At one point, I sat down at a table next to another young woman and three young men to chat with them, and learned it was the young woman’s birthday.  After a few minutes, the man directly across the table from her asked her “so, how old are you today?”

You would think that the old-fashioned adage which dictates men should never ask a woman her age had gone the way of the eight-track tape long ago in this age of straightforwardness, but even this young millennial looked at the guy asking her this with more than a little surprise on her face.  She acquiesced though with a flirty laugh and said “Ok I’ll tell you guys how old I am, but it means everyone here also has to say how old they are.  I’m 28 today.”  

Now at this point I began to get a little uncomfortable.  I could tell that all four of them were significantly younger than me.  Was I really going to have to tell them my age?  I pictured the shocked looks that would appear on their faces and perhaps even receiving sad but comforting pats on my ancient hand as I revealed a number that surely their youthful group would consider prehistoric.

One of the guys across the table then said “Oh god, 28…it’s been the worst year of my life so far, I’m 28 too right now.”  And then his friend sitting next to him nodded knowingly in miserable affirmation and said he was 28 too.  Finally the third guy broke the curse and said he was…wait for it…29.  I think they all started talking about this horrible, miserable time in their lives but honestly I didn’t hear any of that…I was too busy thinking of what I was going to say in the next few seconds when it was my turn to answer.

And then suddenly I thought of a clever quip, a way out of having to tell them my age at all but at the same time acknowledging my um, advanced wisdom (yeah that’s it) in a humorous and self-deprecating kind of way.  “What a coincidence, I was 28 when I left to join the Peace Corps!” was on the tip of my tongue as I waited for it to be my turn to complete the round.

Except that moment never arrived.  Which was confusing, because it was my turn, with the briefest of pauses in the conversation, and I think a few eyes even glanced my way for a fleeting moment in fearful apprehension…but then the subject was changed and I was passed over.  Literally.  The subject turned to something else entirely.  I really don’t think they meant anything malicious or mean by it, and I guess I should have been grateful for the reprieve, but the feeling I actually got from the rest of the group was “don’t worry, we know you’re obviously way older than us, so no need to even answer the question.”

But should I have been grateful?  The more I thought about it, the more it gnawed at me.  I’ve never shied away from telling someone my age in the past, so why had I been intimidated at that moment?  Why shouldn’t I have felt at ease with telling them my age, and why shouldn’t they have felt at ease hearing it?  Why did I feel dismissed when I didn’t get the chance to answer the question?

I’m really not sure.  Maybe it was the way the rest of them were talking and laughing and flirting in their loosely-choreographed dance of young life, and I felt somehow excluded from that even though I was right next to them.  It was maybe the first time I’ve actually and tangibly felt what it’s like to be stranded by the proverbial generation gap – but from the older side this time, the one that’s just slightly over the other side of the hill. 

What I wish I’d had the chance to say, now that I’ve thought about it, is this:  I’m 43 years old – which doesn’t make me ancient, it just makes me experienced, and that’s a good thing.  Yes I like Pat Benatar,  Journey and The Go-Go’s, so sue me (I took their cassettes with me all the way to Africa by the way).  No we didn’t have cell phones and laptops and tablets when I did Peace Corps – we were truly unplugged before that was even a catchword, and were lucky to have one (landline) 10-minute phone call every 3 weeks with our families, which cost them a small fortune.  There was no Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat…there were only long-awaited letters in plain white envelopes with red and blue borders, and they were our addiction.  When it got dark at night, we didn’t log on, we lit up – our lanterns, that is, so that we could read dog-eared paperbacks by lamp light and listen to BBC on the radio.

It’s been 15 years already since I left to join Peace Corps, so 28 was actually a very memorable and good year for me, because as I mentioned above, that’s how old I was when I left to go serve.  I’m glad I waited until I’d finished grad school and was older to serve – for me personally, it was just the right time in my life to go.  And I’m not sure why the 28th year now apparently has such a bad reputation amongst those presently living it, but all I can say to them is just wait until you’re 43, or 53, or 63, and you’ll appreciate 28 much more than you do now.   Just let it be good.  (Does that make me sound like a crotchety old woman?)

Actually years 28 and 43 have been amazingly similar in my life.  They were both years in which I made huge life-changing decisions and took leaps of faith to start new ventures.  Both were years in which I made (or will make) voyages to the other side of the globe to pursue adventure and change.  Both were years in which I contemplated new directions and committed myself to self-study on things important to me.  Both have been categorized by determination and resiliency.  Now that I think of it, the ages of 28 and 43 have been two of, if not the most, important years of my life so far.

So maybe those youngsters at that table did me a favor after all…they’ve helped me remember and reflect on times that were pivotal in my life.  I’m grateful for that.  Maybe as a thank you I should take them to a Pat Benatar concert.  Or at least give them one of her cassette tapes…

pat-benatar-le-bel-age-big

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

Evolution and Enchiladas

3 Comments

“Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide.” ~William Shakespeare (King Lear, I, ii)

After Christmas, I made a return trip to my homeland of New Mexico to spend some time with family members at a vacation home in the southern part of the state.  During that time, I also drove up to spend a night in Albuquerque, where I lived for 35 years (wow that makes me feel old) before I moved to Texas.  I ate at some of my favorite restaurants (I’m looking at you Saggio’s and Frontier) and got to see and catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in over four years.

A collage tribute to one of my favorite places ever: The Frontier in Albuquerque.

A collage tribute to one of my favorite places ever: The Frontier in Albuquerque.

But that excursion left me feeling pretty melancholy.  Something had changed since I’d last visited the Q a little over a year ago.  The city itself felt depressed to me, and the neighborhoods around my childhood home appeared deserted and old and crumbling. There seemed to be barely any traffic on the streets anywhere in the city, especially compared to the ever-constant congestion on Austin’s roadways.  The wintery landscape was bathed in familiar browns and grays, with the ever-present lack of greenery that I remember from living there.  New Mexico has a stark and unique beauty, but I didn’t feel it while in my former city this time.

I had to wonder if it was more me than the locale.  As I drove around old haunts and hangouts, including my home I had for 14 years as an adult, I just felt…sad.  So much has changed in my life recently, that maybe I’m more sensitive to other things that appear to have not changed at all.  And while I have a few friends left in Albuquerque, only one of them was able to get together this time.  The others I saw a year ago weren’t available, which is ok; it was short-notice and the end of the year, and I completely understood.  Last year, Bryan Cranston sat his Hollywood self right next to me at a downtown cafe, but this year I just felt like a lonely loser as I brought my take-out enchiladas back to my hotel room.

I think part of the sadness comes from acceptance of the fact that there are several people and places in Albuquerque that are no longer part of my life, and probably won’t be again.  I should have known better than to go by my old house, the mere sight of which floods me with painful, wonderful, life-changing memories.  For better or worse, that part of my life is over.  And as life stumbles on, we come to realize that certain friendships have also run their course.  Sometimes it isn’t even a fight or one specific event that brings the relationship to a slow close…it’s just the evolution of the history and the fading of the future, and then before you know it, you haven’t spoken for years and instead of feeling wrong, it’s somehow ok.

I think many people force friendships past their evolutionary end out of a feeling of false obligation…but they’re not being honest with either themselves or the other person.  Some things just end.  We all know who our true, lifelong, call-me-no-matter-what-you-need friends are; it doesn’t matter how much time goes by either, you can just pick up where you left off, which often was years and years ago.  But let’s face it – most friendships don’t fall into that category.

For me, they are few and far between.  I’ve been faced with fading friendships over the past few years, and it hasn’t been just a result of changing zip codes.  Letting go of people who have been there during good and bad times and memory-making moments is a strange thing to have to do.  Admitting and accepting that we have little in common anymore or that we don’t agree with each others’ past choices is slightly gut-wrenching, but to me, seems necessary as part of being true to ourselves and choosing to be UNunhappy.

I’ve grieved for fallen friendships and lost love, and if I let myself, it’s easy to trudge back into the trenches of wallowing.  But at some point, it has to just be enough.  Move on.  Move up.  Move into the realm of where you feel you are supposed to be.  Even ‘LOST‘ agreed that you have to hit the reset button sometime.

I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, at least for right now (even though I hate being held hostage in my own house over the last few days by the insanely high cedar pollen counts in Austin, it’s ridiculous).  I don’t know if I’ll return to Albuquerque again or when, although the possibility of never going back seems unlikely to me.  Maybe we’ll tow the nephews along to Balloon Fiesta one year soon; I’d love to see the looks on their faces at the wonder that is a thousand balloons launching off the field in simultaneous waves of fire and color.

Source: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

(Source: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta)

By the way: after some searching since I moved here, I did find a pretty good enchilada place in Austin.  It’s not quite the same, but it’s enough.  I’m hitting the enchilada reset button. (And it’s just around the corner, which is either convenient or dangerous, depending on how you look at it…)  I hope that you too are lucky enough to have enticing enchiladas available to you wherever you are.  Because what’s life without the perfect plate of enchiladas every once in a while, right?  (Let’s see how many times I can use the word enchilada in one paragraph.)

(Source: TripAdvisor)

(Source: TripAdvisor)

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

Forays and Flowers in Fourteen

3 Comments

“How joyful I am made by this contract!” ~William Shakespeare (Henry VI Part 1, III, i)

I hope this post finds each of you at least a little recovered from the whirlwind holiday season, with all of its chocolatey temptations, superfun family time, and shocking credit card statements.  Back to reality we go now in the new year – a depressing letdown for some, but a chance at new starts and a fresh slate – a blank contract – for others. I don’t make resolutions anymore, but I do make plans – and I have a brainful of blueprints that are itching to be put into action.

I actually really enjoy taking down all the Christmas decorations each year and getting back to the minimalistic, uncluttered normalcy of things again.  It feels refreshing, like when you have a big garage sale and get rid of some of the extemporaneous stuff that seemed nice at the time but now you can’t figure out why you hung onto it for so long.

For me, 2014 will bring some big changes and exciting voyages that I’m really looking forward to.  Things are so different for me now than they were a year ago at this time; a year ago, I was sick as a dog (in urgent care on Christmas morning actually) from my germ-laden job and saw no hope in anything that the immediate future held, professionally or personally.  The new year brought no joy, only more resentment and desperation at having to return to a workplace I despised and job duties that were literally sucking the life out of me.

I started this blog six months ago at the end of June as a way to document my journey towards a less miserable (UNunhappy) existence.  And one month before that, I finally quite that horrible job as the first concrete step on that path.  Since then, I feel a little like I’ve been speedwalking in slow motion – I have so many ideas and so much I want to do (and write), but I’m purposefully taking it slow so that I don’t get overwhelmed and burned out before I even really begin.  I have pages and pages of to-do lists, but instead of burning through them at record speed, I’m allowing myself the time to appreciate each accomplishment as it happens.

I have two main focuses (foci?) this coming year: one will be the launch of my new floral design business, which I have aptly named (drum roll please) “Much Ado About Flowers.” Its namesake play (Much Ado About Nothing) is one of my Bard favorites and considered by many one of his best, and it just felt right to name my business after something I’ve also held dear for so many years. I filed all the necessary contract and business/license/permit fees with the city, county and state a few months ago and finally have it all in working order to be able to officially do actual business. I’ve established accounts with all of the floral wholesalers in town and am establishing networking contacts.  Yes it’s terrifying and I feel like I’m stepping off a cliff sometimes, but I’ve decided it’s better than feeling dead inside.

I will still keep my part-time job at the university, but will spend a good amount of my remaining time on building up my supply and workspace inventory, developing online and social media resources, learning about how to run a small business, and expanding my knowledge of all things flower-related.  I do have some ideas in mind for how I would like to see things develop, but I’m also open to new and different opportunities along the way. I’m leaving the definition of “success” for this business open for now, and not boxing myself into any pre-set expectations or obligations.

Untitled

Click on the photo to be taken to the Facebook page for
Much Ado About Flowers.  Please “Like” if so inclined!

For about a month between November and December, I watched in awe as my handyman (also known by the clever alias of Dad) gutted and converted the small storage shed in my backyard into a walk-in flower cool room.  The boardwalk was put into place first so that feet won’t be muddied as trips are traipsed back and forth:

IMG_0081IMG_0236Then he basically turned the inside of the shed into a super-sized foam-insulated cooler (literally, there are huge sheets of Styrofoam between the insulation and the finished walls), complete with electricity, A/C unit, work bench and sink with running water:

IMG_0181

IMG_0198

IMG_0284

IMG_0214

One step, board, and floor tile at a time, I’m getting closer to another realization.  (My handyman got paid by the way in many thank yous and several loaves of pumpkin bread, and I hope he knows how grateful I am for his help).  I’m pretty intimidated by how much I still don’t know, and by how long of a road I have ahead of me, but at least I feel that I’m on the right road for a change.

And speaking of roads, the other focus of 2014 for me will be getting back out on the road and across the pond to take England by storm again.  I was there in 2012 (right before the Olympics) for the World Shakespeare Festival, and had a great experience.  This time, I’ll be volunteering for the organizing group of the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France!  This is a huge deal for the UK & Yorkshire, with 3 days of racing in England before they head back to France to continue the Tour.  I’ll be in Leeds and York for the first two stages, but that’s just one part of my trip. I’m hoping to also get to several other corners of the country that I missed last time.

Tour-de-France-2014-map

I love planning a trip like this, and I’m in the thick of it right now; for me it’s half the fun.  The challenge and satisfaction of finding just the right little B&B within my budget; the process of mapping out my itinerary along the maze of train tracks and bus routes that crisscross the countryside; and the anticipation of real life forays into the places I’ve read about and seen in my favorite legends, movies and TV shows.

Although I have big aspirations of ogling a whole slew of sights during this trip, I’m also determined to try to enjoy it more than the crazed pace I set for myself last time.  I want to slow down, spend more than one night in most places, and really let myself relax into the English way of life if possible (while still hitting the highlights, of course). 

In addition to travels to new towns, I look forward to going back to Shakespeare country for the historic 450th anniversary celebrations of his birth this year, as well as hopefully meeting a few new Twitter friends I’ve made since my last trip there.  I’ll be avoiding London during the pricey time of Wimbledon, but will manage to spend some time there before I leave.  I will no doubt rack up a pretty penny of debt with this adventure, but what’s that saying about not being able to take it with you once you’re gone…

So those are my blueprints for now.  No big deal.  Just completely changing course in life and taking leaps that may or may not work out.  Thanks for continuing to read along as the path winds through it all.  Here’s to a great Fourteen for all of us.

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

%d bloggers like this: