I think I had a party at 5. I don't remember 10 at all. at 15 I was resigned to the reality that, like everyone else, I grew older. at 20, already married, I saw in myself a new version of my father. at 25, newly divorced, I was certain I'd never see 50.
when I hit 30, life was starting to get good: I imagined that at 50 I'd be living in the desert, growing a small plot of vegetables, and teaching. by 35, buying our first house in the midwest, I knew that wasn't going to happen. I celebrated 40 with a vasectomy and spent the weekend on the couch in a vicodin and beer-fueled haze. by the time I hit 45, teaching and appreciating the life I had, I'd started reflecting on life differently.
like nearly every male growing up in the late 20th century, I held onto the fantasy of being a boy wonder for a long time, finally even giving in to the fantasy in my 40s of being a late-blooming boy wonder. at 50 you can't convince even yourself you're a boy wonder anymore. why that particular fantasy holds such sway for americans I'm not really certain, except for our youth-transfixed culture and the lure of early and easy fame. I can still evoke the shudders I felt standing in the dark schubert theatre in 1975 listening to this line from bobby in a chorus line: "if troy donahue could be a movie star, then I could be a movie star."
living and writing quietly on the rim now, heading into the heart of what was once a frontier city to teach and be taught, discovering what it means to be trusted by community and appreciated in turn, well-remarried and playing each day with animals who recognize in me the benign nature I sometimes forget myself, I am happy with what I am. I dreamt last night that I was teaching in a crowded school wherein classes were conducted in huge open rooms with students sitting in chairs arrayed around teacher's desks. the lighting had to be better, and I was replacing the lamps with help from former students. we were laughing and telling stories, and I woke with a solid sense of contenment and doing holy work.
this is where I should be, this is what I should be doing. I'm only missing the vegetables.