Reflections on a Vocational Happenstance
"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." - Nelson Mandela
Perhaps Mandela did not mean his words to be interpreted literally. Because no place that I have been, not even the most pristine natural environment, remains unchanged, not even for one day.
Reflecting on places left behind, envisioning what they might be now, I am reminded of a piece of ancient wisdom:
"You cannot step in the same river twice."
But Thoreau wrote, "Things do not change: we change."
So are there things, then, that remain the same, things by which I can measure the changes in myself?
In 1979 I fell head-over-heels in love with Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. You can't imagine how much I admired Dagny Taggart. I wanted to be steely-strong like her, self-assured like her, beautiful in an unattainable way like her. I read for the story only, having borrowed the book all unknowing. My 35-year-old self, by then the mother of three daughters, saw Dagny in a different light, and when I took up the book again a few years ago, reading for sweet nostalgia's sake, I had to acknowledge that my 17-year-old self had disappeared. For better and for worse, I'm not sure, but she's gone for good. That story, frozen as it is in time, serves as a measure of my personal evolution.
Coincidentally, I learned to knit the same year that I read Atlas Shrugged. Both experiences were memorable and knitting serves equally well as a yardstick.
Yesterday I met a woman about my age who had carried her knitting along, just as I do, to work while riding in the car or waiting in some lobby. She was excited to show me and I was happy to see. A near beginner, she is off to a good start; her stitches look about like mine did 35 years ago. As we talked, I tried to imagine what it would be like not to have knit until now and really I couldn't fathom it.
What I remember about learning to knit is all emotional, just as my impression of that novel is all emotional. I can't remember what I thought about either one of those experiences, I just remember the way they made me feel. The 17-year-old knitter has gone the way of the 17-year-old reader.
Passion runs high at 17 -- higher than at 53, at least for me. Still though, I am eager to travel onward, albeit at a more stately pace, measuring my growth by what remains unchanged.