Sunday, December 26, 2010
On the eve of forty-one
It's nowhere near as scary as rounding the bend to forty, I can tell you that, but it's scary all the same. Perhaps the feeling of dread will go away when I hit the mid-forties (and by then -- shudder! -- I'll be looking at fifty). Who knows?
But tomorrow, I'll be forty-one. There's no escaping that.
Behind me will be a whole year of forty. For what it's worth, I can look back at the year with fondness and remembrance. Life begins at forty, so they say. I can't claim to know with certainty the truth of that. What I will say is that my fortieth year was nothing what I expected, but more than what I could have hoped for.
Close to my fortieth year, I met my now-fiancée. This is how it happened: I took on a dog of a job, not because I wanted to but because no one else wanted to do it. Out of that, I put out two books and got to know the author. The author in turn introduced me to her niece. The niece and I hit some snags along the way, but by early December we were seeing each other regularly.
How do you know if the person is the one for you? You just, I suppose. A few days after my fortieth, I asked her if we could...well, I don't know what I asked her...but she said yes. I had not planned on asking so soon, but the time just seemed right to ask. It's been a year of food and laughter and cake deliveries and presents.
How do you know if the person is the one for you? You just, I suppose. In September, I asked her The Question...and she said yes. It had been on my mind for some time, and it seemed the right time to ask. The wedding is due in May next year.
A year before my fortieth, I started teaching again. I had not been on any steady employment since I left the multinational in 2004; not that I didn't try, because I did, but for some reason or other, I could never find a good fit. Applying to tech companies always made me queasy. Since I wasn't doing it for the money, I never really found any urgent impetus to follow through. And then, I finally thought: maybe I should teach.
For a year, I taught part-time, with both the Computer Studies Division and the Humanities Division of Ateneo de Davao. People dropped some hints: maybe I should go full-time? I smiled politely and said no. I wanted to keep my options open. But...options for what? For all its ups and downs, I've never really been happier than when I was teaching. In the June of my fortieth year, I decided to teach full-time.
I like to say: I never teach a class the same way twice. Perhaps I shouldn't admit that -- we are expected to follow a syllabus, after all -- but I can't help it. Teaching is a process of constant refinement, even experimentation, moreso when you're dealing with ever-changing technologies. The experimentation keeps me fresh and interested in what I'm doing.
Barring any drastic need or event, I'm likely to be teaching full-time for the near foreseeable future.
For all these happy events, I can feel myself getting older. It's in the way I see things: literally, because I now have to lift my glasses to read print; and figuratively, because of my palpably changing tastes and preferences and the dwindling energies.
In many ways, I sense the loss. I no longer write as much or as often as I used to (is it because I have become more critical of my own work?) I view movies and television with less enjoyment and more impatience (is it because I am more sensitive to their vapidity?) Even books have lost some of their appeal, and I no longer read as much as I did before (is it because of my eyesight? or my growing cynicism?) Non sum qualis eram sum; I am not the man I used to be.
But even as I grieve the loss of the person I once was, I look with some expectation and curiosity at the person I am going to be. Being with my fiancée has changed my perspectives and smoothened out rough edges; and in a few months time, we will ratify that union. What changes will that bring? I look deeper into teaching, and see so many possibilities and so many opportunities. Besides, being with young students makes me feel young.
I am not the man I once was, and maybe that's for the best.
That said, the best part of being forty-one is that it brings me closer to forty-two and The Meaning of Life. If you don't get the reference, I am sorry for you. I am a geek. Nothing is going to change that.