Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Circle of Life

What goes around comes around. That is what they say. Things come in waves, circuits, cycles, rhythms.

Like the stock market. Today, I lost $30,000. But in the 90's I probably made some money. I wouldn't know, because I follow the stockbroker's orders and "don't look" pretty much all of the time. I will look when I'm 50 and starting to plan the next half of my life. I'll be working full-time, of course, because the account balance will only cover about 1/5th of the 100 years I intend to live. The Dow is a merry go round. Good thing I don't get motion sickness.

Like politics. Democrats, democrats, democrats. Today's seemingly liberal boom is the nation's reaction to 10 years of self-righteous isolationists holing up and taking care of number one. The tide has turned. Now those same egotists aren't so sure of themselves. They are scrambling, trying to look busy as their employers search for ways to increase efficiencies. The math-illiterates shout, "Me! Me!" as the federal government hands out free money - Lo and behold, their adjustable rate mortgage has surpassed their take home pay! Angry cries of "Less government!" and "Let the market decide" were sad pseudonyms for "Gimme Gimme Gimme!" not so long ago. Now we hear the indignant grumble, "The government should do something about this," as pig farms and Bill Sizemore move in next door.

It makes me feel sheepish, and nervous, to think that I too will change my tune someday. Perhaps I already have. In college, didn't I say I was going to work my way around the world, transforming myself into a truly global citizen? Hadn't I prided myself on eating 16 cent ramen and living on $100 a month? I seem to remember that my life goals included sitting in trees and my values centered on fierce, feminist independence. Had I actually written a paper in college on the redundancy of males? By my young-person standards, the me of today would be boring, stodgy and stiff; too concerned with money, prestige, trophy accomplishments and the tidiness of my lawn; a traitor who married a white male, moved back to my home town and added to the overpopulation problem by reproducing - twice!

What if, by the time I am 60, I become my exact opposite? My 20's were marked by an expansionist mind, thirsting for different, craving newness. My 30's, by accepting and living the accepted norm. Will I be reduced in my 40's and 50's to a forever narrowing mind and an ever-increasing fear of the unknown? (I don't own a cell phone or an ipod - it could be an omen.) I cringe when I think about myself sitting in for my 94-year old grandmother - and it isn't the wrinkles that have me shaking. It's the locking my doors against "those crazy young people," rejecting strange new ideas, battling to remain the same.

But, perhaps the cyclical nature of life will roll over me...and keep on going. Maybe my selfish phase has come and gone. Perhaps I have hit the apex and am already moving back around towards the idealism and open-mindedness of 20 years ago. If the Dow goes up and down - and then up again - why can't I? After all, my grandmother - that little old lady who is scared of mohawks and piercings - she chats with her family online and has e-accounts at the bank and the department stores. There may be hope for me yet.