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When Was the Graduation Again?

An amusing awareness landed in my belly while I was in Denver. It probably wouldn’t have arisen if I’d been there with my rabbi-friend, as we’d planned, but he tested positive. So I returned into the long-ago abandoned academic fray alone. The whole weekend, I encountered very few people I knew. Then it landed.

I’m old-guard faculty now.

I’m old, with fewer elders (if any), with few colleagues who have been at this as long as I have. When was the graduation again? When did I pass this threshold exactly?

I laughed aloud, letting the amusement and feelings settle into my body.

No wonder it was so different. No wonder this conference was not as energizing as it had been in years long ago. It used to be a festival of bumping into colleagues, folks similarly engaged in establishing their work and imagining possibilities of new work. Today, however, I don’t have much patience for this environment; it's barren, cold, abstracted, invulnerable. I rarely participate, this time only instigated by an obligation to a treasured collaboration.

It was bemusing to realize, belatedly, that I have changed so very much. Made me smile.

And there was grief too. I felt sad to be there on my own, with few like me to see, be seen.

Then the grief was given a surprisingly poignant shape, emerging in that precise moment (which feels significant, Spirit-communicative). Another rabbi-friend responded to an email I’d sent that morning, declining my invitation into a new thing that’s energizing me… He’s retiring, you see. Wanting to make new choices, with new priorities of health and family and verve. I am so happy for him and it was striking too. I felt envy alongside my wave of grief.

He’s been a colleague with just a tinge of elderhood about him (for me). His affirmations pushed me into my first book, allowing me to at least imagine that I might have something to offer, something that might be of value, not just to me. Our paths have intertwined over a decade now, with uncanny and delightful convergences, connections. He’s making new choices for himself–which I love–and which landed this gift of envy. (I’ve learned to welcome envy over the years, recognizing it shows me something within me that I may not be conscious of…) Apparently I too am yearning for the time when I can lean into new priorities, focus on my health and spaciousness in relationships I cherish. Hmmm….

All this leaves me with the strange wondering about when this transition into “old” happened, or how much of it is just beginning to happen now…?

How am I being invited to step into conscious eldering work? How much of that have I already done in my small social-purpose business work of the last decade?

What is my own yearning for retirement–which I hear as new life, new work, new resting-cherishing-being?

When was the graduation again? What kind of celebration of it can I now imagine?

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