I have been re-reading the journals I wrote when I entered my forties. My career was just moving into high gear and I was balancing family, teaching career and a very stressful union position. I read the words now and am amazed by my ability to juggle huge amounts of information, by the number of early morning and evening meetings I attended, by my enthusiasm for a job that had to be sandwiched all the time. Only great strength, youth and will made it possible, I suspect.
There is a constant thread running through that two year period, one that is woven so tightly it is painful. I was under too much pressure to be happy. I had to gear up for confrontations almost daily. Over and over I wrote that I would like to just teach, to be able to leave that life behind when I left school. Anyone who has taught high school English will realize that "just teaching" is not stress-free, but I could have coped with its stresses better than I did with the ones I faced daily.
I have been corresponding with a fifty year old friend in Mongolia I have known since 1999. She calls me her Canadian mum. She is a fine teacher and one of the most sensitive and adept "people persons" I know. She often comes across as weak because she avoids conflict, but I have seen her handle more than one potentially dangerous situation in Ulaan Baatar, a city where I saw much violence. One day in the black market we were accosted by a man who was mentally deranged. She protected all of us by talking him down and getting us out of there safely.
Right now she is working full time in a very important union job. It is a job that calls only minimally on her strengths and flaunts all her insecurities and weaknesses.
She is going through many of the things I went through during those stressful years in my early forties.
It has been helpful as I write to support her during this period to be re-reading my own journals from a time when so many things in my life went against my own non-confrontational nature.
I hope that she will opt for happiness over prestige; for peaceful balance over a driven life. I wish I had.