Modern Times

I graduated from college the year I turned 23.  Late that summer, I sat in St. Paul with a friend and we talked about what each of us was going to do someday.

I already had accepted a scholarship at the University of Chicago for graduate studies in sociology, and she was talking about going back to school at the U of M.

I was going to be a professor of sociology, and she was going to be a community organizer.  Neither of us thought we had much of an option–I need to earn a PhD to be respected so that I could move the views of our government toward peace, and she wanted to save the hopeless.

Neither of us thought we had a lot of time, either.  It was the height of the cold war, and the beginning of the Reagan administration.  The worst of times.  And for me, at least, I had been told a few years before that the expectation of a type one diabetic was about 25 years past diagnosis, and I had been diagnosed at 13.

So time was running out, and we sought positions of responsibility–so that we could, we thought, change the world for the better.

John Lennon sang that “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”  So it would be.  I met T, got married, had four kids, now have grandchildren, traveled a bit, moved a lot…

My friend became a student and then a professor; I flunked out of grad school, though not before teaching, and I’ve worked in software and I’m now a lawyer.

She developed cancer, and survived; I’m still alive at 61; we spoke for the first time in many years not too long ago, and discovered that both of us are still playing guitar; and the world didn’t, after all, end in a nuclear holocaust–though Reagan surely laid the groundwork for the Very Stable Genius.

So I didn’t persuade Congress to throw away its nukes; she didn’t lift the people of Minneapolis out of poverty.  Both of us did some good stuff, and I do think in some ways each of us has helped to make the world a better place.  I hope so.

But at my bonus advanced age, I’m realizing something new:  I don’t want responsibility. I have always had people depending on me; for many years, I was the sole financial provider for my family.  I have people who depend emotionally on me for support; and as an attorney, I have a mess of clients who depend on me.

And I am discovering that I want that to be over.

Is that odd?  Or, like Al Stewart’s companion in the song, have I had enough of modern times?


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