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  • Dana Webster

No Ma'am, No Thanks

I'll be turning sixty in a couple of weeks. Yes, sixty. When I was thirty, sixty sounded so old. And, well, in the grand scheme of a human life, sixty is for sure getting up there. I feel pretty good physically despite some persistent aches and pains that can be managed with a cleaner diet, gentle movement, and Advil. I still dress like a seventeen-year-old and, some days, I still feel like a seventeen-year-old. However, I would never ever not-even-for-a-milliion-bucks go back to being an actual teenager. No ma'am, no thanks.

I don't know if there's ever been an ideal time to grow old. I guess every generation finds its pros and cons but I've been thinking that right now is actually pretty good. On the one hand, the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket and I'm glad I don't have to stick around too long to see where it ends up (I do worry about my children and their future children, though). But, on the other hand, with only, say, 25 - 30 years left, the current state of affairs has given me a sort of permission to bow out, leave it to the youngsters to sort, and free float on my own time, my own dime.

Which isn't to say I don't care and that I won't do my part. It will just look different. In my younger days, I attended all the relevant, socially-conscious protests: anti-free trade, pro-choice, poverty reform, anti-racism, Take Back the Night, etc. I hung out in feminist circles and I talked the talk of socio-economic injustice, all while feeling self-satisfied and important. Having a voice felt rebellious and powerful especially for a young woman who was conditioned to be polite and acquiescent.

I've spent a good part of my life being angry and resentful of the systems in which I found myself entangled but had no part in structuring. Swimming upstream is exhausting; it starts to wear on one's psyche. So, now, in my (ahem) advancing years, what I think is needed is a quieter form of subversion. Years of experience and self-reflection have alchemized into wisdom. Elder wisdom is gold. It's the been there done that stage of life.

I rather prefer no longer trying to save the world at large. It can't be done, anyway. But I can have influence over my own small part of the world. We can never really know the impact we have on others but I do believe that living in one's personal integrity and truth, being curious and open to "other", understanding that everyone has purpose and dignity, is at least as powerful a change-maker as shouting in the streets and waving placards.

“Dignity does not come from avenging insults, especially from violence that can never be justified. It comes from taking responsibility and advancing our common humanity.” – Hillary Clinton

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