Exit 221. The best I can with the life I’ve been given.

Recently, one of my friends shared on Facebook that her daughter was pregnant, and that she was going to be a grandmother for the first time. This announcement was significant to me because of how I know this grandmother-to-be: she was in my high school graduating class.

I’ve known for years that this moment would be coming soon, and I’ve been dreading it. Having children was never on my radar, I’ve always felt like I was missing out on something special because of that, and now I’m old enough to be theoretically having grandchildren. It’s quite likely that she isn’t even the first grandparent in our graduating class. Quite a few of my classmates already have adult children (we’re in our early 40s currently), and at least three-fourths of my classmates I have heard nothing from since we graduated. I know of people my age and younger who have older spouses and step-grandchildren, and I know of someone in the class a year older than us who was a grandmother at age 39. But it hits home a little more when it’s someone whom I’m actually in social media contact with.

I’ve been dreading this because it is just a reminder of the fact that having children has never been something to consider for me, which in turn is a reminder of my failure to form or have a romantic relationship. I am constantly surrounded by reminders of this, and it makes me feel like there is something wrong with me.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. I can just keep doing the best I can with the life I’ve been given. And I have plenty of reminders of experiences I’ve had, and continue to have, that wouldn’t be possible had I had children. This isn’t what I naturally think about first when this happens, but I need to learn to change my thinking.

And besides, most of the greatest human beings who ever lived weren’t like everyone else.

Exit 137. Maybe this is my legacy.

I am at a wedding right now as I am writing this. It’s that boring part where everyone is waiting for the family and wedding party to take pictures. I probably won’t finish this whole post now; that seems too antisocial, so I’ll probably finish it at home.

But that’s not the point. I’ve been to somewhere upward of 40 weddings in my life, and this is the second time I’ve been to a wedding of a former student, and the first time I have ever been to a wedding of two former students marrying each other.

As I have gotten older, and stayed in touch with some former students, I often feel like I’m stuck in a weird time warp. My former students grow up, graduate, get adult jobs, get married, and have families of their own… and I don’t really change at all. Last week, I was Facebooking with another former student from a different school. I asked her how her daughter was doing; she said she was crawling already and made a remark about how they grow up so fast. I replied, “I know! I don’t know firsthand, since I don’t have children myself, but I’m sitting here talking to you, I’ve known you since you were 12, and now I’m asking you about your kid. In fact, you are the same age now as I was when I was your teacher.”

I often feel sad about the fact that I don’t have a family or children of my own. It feels like I’m missing out on a beautiful and wonderful stage of growing up. But maybe this is my legacy. Maybe I just wasn’t meant to have a family of my own. Maybe staying in touch with some of my former students and watching them grow up is going to take the place of having a family of my own. It will never be the same, but this is a beautiful experience in its own right. And I don’t have to change diapers. I can still be an important figure in others’ lives without being biologically related to them.

And it’s entirely possible I may still have children someday. Life isn’t over, and I’ve been wrong about things before. For example, I was wrong that I wouldn’t finish this blog post before the wedding pafty finishes taking pictures. Hurry up, already. I’m hungry.

Exit 43. A moment of childlike innocence.

I had a brutal week.  I had two hours of meetings after a regular-length day of work on Wednesday to prepare for the upcoming standardized testing season.  I also gave a test that day, which would take four or five hours to grade, so I had virtually no free time from Wednesday morning through Friday afternoon.  I also had a lot I was dealing with emotionally that I still haven’t completely processed, including a recent incident that left a student from the school where I work in the hospital (I do not know this student, and the incident did not occur on campus) and the sudden passing of an acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen in several months.

So because of all this, I’m not really prepared to write about anything this week, and when I do that, I look through my old Livejournal from years ago and old Facebook notes I wrote.  The last time I had to do this, I had something in mind I wanted to share, but after spending an hour looking through all my Livejournal posts from 2006 and 2007, I couldn’t find it.  I just found it now; apparently I was looking a little too far back.  I wrote this in April of 2008.

The wind was at my back. I still had over six miles to go before I got home, but the pedaling would be a lot easier this time going with the wind. I was pedaling fast, probably around 17 miles per hour except that I couldn’t be sure. My speedometer has been broken for some time. To my dismay, the green light ahead of me turned yellow, requiring me to slow down and waste all that momentum I had built up. There was no way I’d get across the intersection before the light turned red.

As I stopped at the intersection, I looked around. To my right, two girls, one on a bike and one on a scooter, were getting ready to cross. They could have been sisters, but I couldn’t be sure. One of them started to move, but the older one held her back, since it was only the left turn light that had turned green and it was not their turn to cross yet. As I turned to look forward, I heard a voice over my right shoulder call out, “Hi.” I turned to the right and saw one of the two girls waiting to cross waving at me. She looked like she was probably no older than ten or eleven.

“Hi,” I replied. “How are you?”

“Good,” she said. “How are you?”

“Good. It’s a beautiful day out today.”

“Yeah,” she agreed as her light finally changed. “It’s been a good day so far.” She and the other girl began crossing the street.

“See you later,” I said.

“Bye,” she replied. Both of them smiled. They rode off, and I continued waiting for my light to change. And for that one brief moment, all of a sudden it didn’t matter what color our skin was, it didn’t matter that I was in a neighborhood very different from my own, it didn’t matter who would win the presidential election later this year or what the economy was like or that many would view a man my age saying hi to young girls with apprehension and suspicion. All I saw was a moment of childlike innocence and exchanging friendly words with my fellow human being.