I’m turning 28 today. 28 feels much older than 27. It’s firmly grounded in the last quarter of the decade, rather than the third, which can still be considered “middle.” I’m officially finished with my mid-twenties and have moved on to “late.” Eek.

Being in your late twenties is a whole different ball game from your mid twenties. That’s what they tell us anyway. In your mid twenties it’s ok if you’re still figuring things out, but by 27.5 you’re starting to run out of time for that kind of childish dillydallying. You’re supposed to be settling down and bracing yourself for the supreme personal and professional effort you’ll be making in the next decade. How intimidating and non-exciting is that does that sound? Now, I don’t like “shoulds” and “supposed tos,” or the idea that changing paths means you’ve “wasted time,” or the pressure to stick to arbitrary timelines others set for us. I don’t even think that figuring yourself out is a life task that anyone completely finishes ever. But at the same time, we do only get so much time on earth. Milestones can be a useful reminder to check up on yourself and make sure that you’re doing what you need to be doing in order to accomplish what you want to do in this one lifetime you get.

When I think of life in terms of checking things off a list, it seems like I’m doing pretty well:

  1. Graduate from college
  2. Buy used car with cash
  3. Get MA degree
  4. Move out of Mom and Dad’s and to another city
  5. Begin “realistic” career
  6. Buy house
  7. Get married
  8. Get MAT degree
  9. Find a good workplace to stay in long-term
  10. Begin fulfilling personal project/hobby

Not bad for 8 years, right? My path has been pretty traditional, as this list shows. I guess I’ve concentrated my energy on arranging things that make my life stable and secure. But that doesn’t sound like a daring and exciting way to live, does it? Checking things off a list? What about spontaneity, what about passion, what about the random fun things people do when they’re young? Well, I do have plenty of passion in # 7, 9 and 10 from my list, thanks. But I also have a lot of unfulfilled, amorphous ambition inside. I have an informal bucket list of places to go and things to do, some of which are frivolous (vacations, dessert parties, maintaining my looks), and some of which are big and scary (children, book, PhD). My hope now is that this stability and security will allow me to do these important things, the silly and the daunting, instead of tying me down and making them impossible, or making me choose between them, which is always the fear of the 20-year-old thinking about her next decade.

Since my birthday is in June, the years of my life are synced to the school year. I judge a passing year by the academic calendar, not the Gregorian. This year I helped 66 students get 103 half-credits, and 57 of them graduated in either December or May. My part of enabling their success is something I’m proud of, and why I enjoy teaching at my school so much. I would not choose to teach summer school if I didn’t like being there.

This blog is one of the things I did this year that I’m most proud of. It has kept me intellectually engaged in some of the issues that mean most to me. It’s only been five and a half months, and my audience is still woefully small, but I am proud of myself for keeping up with it and posting over a hundred times. I’ve reviewed over 50 books so far. I do feel that I’ve made a strong start in articulating an aesthetic, which was the goal I set for myself when I started the blog. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve started to notice some patterns in my own responses, which I hope to write about soon.

Next year, I really want to improve the blog–its readership and its technical side. I know that I could be doing more to promote and spruce up the site, but I’ve been putting all the energy into writing so far, plus I don’t know how do deal with these issues (yet). I also want to deepen my teaching. “21st century skills” and “project-based learning” are new buzzwords, but some of the things I’ve been reading about these concepts actually excite me quite a bit because they resonate with the part of my heart that I left at my liberal arts college. I have a nice rhythm going in my teaching now, but a little creative disruption would be good to avoid complacency. I also have a couple other personal goals for this year that I prefer to keep secret until I’ve achieved them.

Today I will be teaching summer school–I think it’s the first time in my life, second at most, that I’ve ever worked on my birthday. Then I’ll be having sushi and wine with a couple girlfriends. Then we might just get some frozen yogurt. Tomorrow I’ll leave town to see family and celebrate a wedding shower with a pool party that will probably remind me of shared birthday parties at the pool in Ludlow complete with Little Mermaid plates and napkins. Later next week David will take me out for Italian food at the restaurant we ate at the night he proposed. We bought ourselves a camera as a joint birthday present (his birthday is next month). Maybe the camera will also be a tool to enrich the blog. Here’s the first of I hope many shots, me turning 28.

3 thoughts on “28

  1. I think it sounds like you’ve accomplished quite a bit, Mary Jo! And there is definitely something to be said for establishing the stability to then go forth and tackle the rest of the items on that bucket list. I try to keep both large and small things on my own list of things to “do.” That way it’s not so daunting, and there are small victories to celebrate. “Finish PhD” is on my list, but so is “Make a Caramel Flan from Scratch.” Travel to Japan? Yeah, that’s on my list, but so is finally visiting the history museum that’s only three miles from my house. Sometimes it’s those little things–things that others might think sound bland or pedestrian–that make life worthwhile. Happy birthday to you, friend!

  2. Happy birthday! I enjoy your writing style, the observations you share and your discipline. I like this particular post because it reveals a maturing self-awareness that many twenty-somethings fail
    to ever uncover.

  3. Thanks Pat and Rebecca! I guess put the little things on a different list. There’s a “To do before I die” list and a “To do in 2012” list. It feels silly to list “Host Arrested Development party” next to accomplishments that take years, like degrees and babies. But then I’ve always has a tendency to over-categorize. That probably explains why my closet is a mess. But you’re right that little things are what make life worth living–when I made choices that gave me stability, it was mostly for the sake of the small pleasures that came with those choices. You’ve got a birthday coming up too, don’t you? Wishing you and your growing family the best!

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