On a walk with the dogs, I mused to my husband that, with some of the old neighbors moving out, our likelihood of striking friendships with their replacements was extremely low. I said that while passing the house now inhabited by a couple in their 30s, with three small children, three annoying dogs and three goats. Right across from them, what felt like a commune of 20-somethings had taken up residence, a jumble of cars at all hours that possibly indicate the headquarters of a start-up.
We live in a semi-rural area, where people still own horses and very much rely on their neighbours, because natural calamities are always around the corner: mudslides, road closures, wildfires (and the big E) are all par for the course of living here. I write this as helicopters fly over my roof, ferrying water back and forth to the site of a fire that started a couple of days ago. The main road is closed and, when the fire broke, I was at work. My closest neighbor texted me and then kept me abreast of the situation over the course of the evening so I would know which way to attempt to get back home. That is what we do.
But the more old-timers move out and new faces, with different lives and different needs move in, the more it feels less like the community I fell in love with over a decade ago. I routinely have to dodge Teslas and BMW’s on my daily dog walks, tearing up at ridiculous speeds, and this all conspires to make me feel passe. I used to make fun of my parents for being so out of touch but now I am wondering if it’s not happening to me.
The thought of venturing into Santa Monica makes me cringe: between the tourists, the top-knot and scraggly beard accessorized hipsters and the Silicon valley techs who have colonized most of Venice and Santa Monica, I don’t recognize either place anymore or, rather, I don’t recognize myself in those places and I am feeling nostalgic for the hippies of old.
The same dynamic plays itself out at the college I am attending. Of the nearly 40 people in the class, there is one person older than me – bless her heart, she doesn’t even know she makes my day every time I see her. Everyone else is very young, including the instructor. I love him, and I love the class but I can tell how the subject is taught to appeal to a younger audience, with cultural references that I am happy to explore but am not entirely familiar with.
Our professor is big on group activities and, when the time comes every week to pair up, nobody rushes up to me. So I am left to force myself on wide-eyed and wrinkle-free youngsters who, slowly, are warming up to the crazy lady they can’t quite understand what is doing there in the first place. I am thoroughly amused.
Conversely, age works to my advantage in my learning process: I am not afraid to raise my hand, ask questions and maybe look stupid. I am way past caring what others think. Often, when the instructor asks questions and the class goes silent, I will be the one to speak up and break the ice everyone else will wade into, eventually. If nothing else, they must love me for that.
And that brings me to the point I am trying to wrap my head around. As the world shifts from being centered around me, my youth, my drive, my ideas, and age forces me to move to the periphery, I am left to redefine my role in society. I am not sure yet of the role age is pushing me into, but I hope it’s not irrelevance.
Maybe I should look at it as yet another journey, another exciting chapter before the final coda, the one where I am planning to be the eccentric old lady in funny hats, surrounded by dogs, still giving the world at large a hard time.