Sunday, October 3, 2010

Change (Mid Life Crisis)

I'm changing the focus of this blog because my life has changed. My youngest son has just left home to study in Montreal - an eight hour drive from Stratford, where we live. My oldest son will soon be departing to spend two years in Ghana, Africa, on a volunteer placement with Engineers Without Borders. The nest is empty.

For the past ten years, I've served as trustee on the local public school board. I chose not to run again because my children were grown and ten years seemed long enough - but it will leave another hole in my life. I published my first novel, a ten-year work in progress, last fall. Although it has received modest recognition, it hasn't changed my life.

I'm astonished to find myself at sea, with time on my hands and no clear purpose. I always thought I'd revel in such freedom. Instead I feel aimless - and ridiculous about it. What a luxury of freedom. How many people in the world are caught in situations where they have no freedom and an all-absorbing purpose: to survive?

Yet it is intense, this sense of meaninglessness. For my whole life I have been driven, mostly by personal concerns: getting an education, earning a living, managing a home, raising a family. I'm educated, make enough money to live in relative comfort, my children are launched on interesting lives, my home is as well-decorated as I care for it to be. What now?

It is important to have a reason to get up in the morning.

My son Mike is a source of inspiration. A recent graduate from the University of Toronto in engineering science, he has found a calling with Engineers Without Borders (EWB.) This extraordinary organization somehow galvanizes young people to engage in work that has the potential to bring about significant change, particularly in Africa. When Mike was in Zambia last summer, he wrote a fascinating blog about the experience  which changed my view of Africa, of aid, of how change can be effected. I continue to read blogs written by EWB members. I'm interested in supporting - and further exploring - their cause.

In Canada, I have long held strong feelings about two particular laws that I think deprive people of personal choice, the law prohibiting assisted suicide or euthanasia and the law that makes possession and personal use of marijuana illegal. Laws against. Theoretically they're intended to protect people, but actually they deny people the right to make personal choices that impact only themselves. I'd like to see these laws changed - although I know there are many, many people who would oppose such change.

So maybe these are the reasons to get up in the morning. Maybe these are things to write about.

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