There are a lot of young women about her age who work at the school. It makes me happy to be around them (for that matter many of our students are females in that age group). They are attractive and bright and wonderfully free of the type of cynicism that a lot of people let seep into their pores as they get older. They’ve got a good enough job and have endless possibilities ahead of them. Some have already found love and the others will have no trouble doing so.
I gravitate to these women because of their optimism. They take work seriously but not themselves. They still know the importance of having a jolly good time whenever life allows. They like people and trust them and are ever hopeful. They appreciate me because I’m “nice” and funny and I suppose, fatherly. In my salad days I was much the same though with a tendency to over indulge in the good times and possessing a precocious world weariness and premature cynicism. In many respects I was damaged goods, scarred by a difficult childhood and starting to be beset by various mental and emotional maladies that I struggle with — though thankfully to a far lesser extent — to this day. But generally men are much less carefree, less trusting and more likely to be burdened by ego.
Many people, as they age, yield easily to bitterness, regret and pessimism. The world is full of middle aged people who, to quote Oscar Wilde, “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Behind every bright cloud they see dark ones looming. Anything, they suppose, that can go wrong likely will. Many such people have been victims of love gone wrong. The one true one left them or never showed up. More commonly they have not attained fame and fortune as seemed their predestination not so many years ago. Having to settle can be an awful lot. Life has many ways of knocking the hope from a person. It takes a strong character to absorb those blows and carry on with a smile and faith.
My dad managed that after mom went bonkers. It was a horribly cruel blow but he persevered and in so doing provided me a life lesson for the ages. I myself have gone through various incarnations and while badly bloodied and a bit bowed, know to forge ahead. My sense of humor has been invaluable. Family has also proven an immeasurable blessing. The absence of a happy one leaves one vulnerable and sometimes bitter.
Some of the middle aged people I work with cope by not embracing anything. Love and devotion leave a person exposed. Being cynical and mocking sentimentality are ways of forming a hard shell to protect oneself. It's like preventing romantic heartbreak by never dating.
There are other factors besides dashed dreams that can scar a life. Addiction, disease, illness, accident, loss and the blood brother of all those, bad luck. It’s remarkable to see anyone get past 30 without being afflicted by some horrible misfortune or other.
I work with older people (though not as old as me) as well and for the most part enjoy their company. There’s one bloke who makes my skin crawl. He is — to me, at least — 100% affect. I don’t believe him. I don’t mean what he says, it’s likely his words tell the truth. It’s more his being which to me seems totally put on, straining credulity. Of course this is merely my take and I note that he gets on well with others. Be that is it may I have some appreciation or even affection and respect for the older set at work. But it is those “kids” who I enjoy being around. It’s not at all, as one of my daughters supposed, that they make me feel young. Indeed if anything they make me wistful for my youth. It is their genuine bright-eyed bushy tailedness that I seek. Of course this is coupled with their outspoken admiration and appreciation for me and my hijinks. Call it a mutual admiration society. I also make a point of checking in with those hard working souls in the office. Just a daily, "how's it going?" can mean a lot.
It seems also there is something very American about these women (even though, or maybe partially because, they hail from a wide spectrum of backgrounds). I am just about the last person on Earth to praise anything for being American, especially when it is personified in a person. So it surprises even me to acknowledge that their unfiltered joie de vivre coupled with a belief in positive outcomes, is a uniquely American trait. There is a lovely sort of naiveté to it all too. I guess this is something I can say for the US, there is a fundamental belief in the soul of this still young country that the pursuit of happiness is not just a phrase in the Declaration of Independence and that anything that needs to be done can and will be done. These women embody it. I like that about them.
It’s just darn nice to be around happy people.