OMG. I am an old woman already. How did that happen?
I’m not really complaining. The problem is not how long I’ve lived but how little I’ve accomplished along the way. In my youth, I expected to be steeped in life-wisdom, knowledge & skills by my current age. How shocking that I’m still myself, just more faded on the outside.
My previous resolutions are still not resolved.
Here are the goals I was supposed to have reached years ago:
- Fluency in Spanish and French as well as English, possibly a working knowledge of some other language (e.g. the Kalabari dialect of the Ijaw language, as spoken in the Niger Delta by my late ex-husband’s relatives).
What I’ve accomplished: I wrote down about a dozen Kalabari words (written phonetically) while living with the late ex-husband. Eventually, I passed that list to my adult daughter. That’s it.
When anyone asks me: Habla(s) espanol?
I answer: Hablo un poco, y comprendo un poco mas. Not impressive. I never hang out in Spanish-speaking watering holes to discuss Latin American Magic Realist literature in Spanish with serious fans.
Re French: I can read street signs in Quebec and bilingual labels on groceries. “Vente” means sale (useful to know for such pursuits as shoe-shopping). “Arret” means stop (very useful to know to avoid arrest in the English sense). “Congele” means frozen (okay, that’s not usually on any street sign in Canada – it would be too obvious in winter – but it appears on all frozen food packages).
On days like today, I can hum a kind of French-Canadian national anthem: “Mon pays, c’est ne pas un pays; c’est l’hiver.” (My country is not a country, it is winter. To be sung to the tune of “I’m a Star in New York, I’m a Star in L.A.” Melody & French words by Gilles Vigneault.)
Comment je ne parle pas comme il faut? Because there are only 24 hours in a day, & I probably waste most of them.
More goals left over from my hopeful past:
- A Ph.D. in English and possibly a Post-Doc. In real life, I never wrote a monster thesis or gained a “terminal degree” (i.e. Ph.D., sometimes granted after death). I never applied to a university with a Ph.D. program, since that would involve moving away. For several reasons, that never seemed feasible.
- At least one critically-acclaimed novel. (I gave myself permission not to write a bestseller, just a book admired by the most critical critics.) No sign of that either.
- At least one book of lit-crit or reference work (my concordance on the work of Ntozake Shange which remains a work-in-progress years after various publishers turned me down) or raunchy composition handbook (still just an idea and a few grammar exercises). No, no and no.
- Artwork displayed in an exhibit or a publication. Never happened. To see my artwork, you have to know me personally and look at my old drawings. Or come to my class and watch me make cartoon images on a blackboard to illustrate grammatical concepts or metaphors in poetry.
- Proficiency in a musical instrument. No. I used to make godawful sounds on a violin. Be glad I stopped.
- Proficiency in ballroom dancing. No. I’ve been told I have rhythm and an ability to follow steps – after getting them wrong a few times. I never learned an award-winning routine.
- A professional (i.e. paid, even if spotty) acting career. Ha.
At this rate, it’s clear that I have to live to be about 150 to reach all my goals.
I can imagine doing all these things, of course, and becoming the improved new Jean, Model 400, or some such.
I could make resolutions. I could. That would be a minor accomplishment. Then I could look at my list at the end of each year and feel like a huge failure.
Here is what I did last year: Having read up on the harmful effects of caffeine, I broke my addiction to coffee by weaning myself off it, one cup at a time. That doesn’t mean I never drink the stuff, it just means I no longer feel the need to drink it every day. I can go for a week or two without a drop of coffee in my system.
Maybe that’s how these things work: drop by drop, cup by cup. Sigh. I need to reread my entry-level Spanish textbook before my trip to Cuba in February. Not that I’ll understand much Spanish spoken at Cuban speed. With patience & amusement, someone there might understand me.
As they say, life is what happens when you were planning something else. Maybe that's the life-wisdom I've gained in all the detours away from my goals.
Here’s hoping I don't lose all my resolve along the way.