Thoughts on Turning 50

I’ve joked for a while about “turning fiddy” and then today it really happened. My odometer of life rolled over the half-century mark. A feeling of depression started to settle over me yesterday, and I really didn’t want to get out of bed this morning.

But I did. And I went to school. And magic happened.

If you’ve never been a teacher it’s hard to explain something like this. It’s hard for most people to understand how the acts of a group of teenagers can mean so much. Many people would struggle to understand why I continue to do a job that pays so little into my bank account without ever knowing how rich I felt today.

Some of my Advanced Placement Literature students got the assistant principal to let them into my room early this morning, and the decorating began. Not your typical streamers and balloons, though there were balloons. A cardboard fort was built around my desk, rising almost three feet higher than the desk. Several sheets of poster board were taped to my walls and my history-fanatic, serial-killer, dictator fangirl had filled the poster boards with a timeline of important historical and pop-culture events that have happened since 1966. A large banner was taped to the wall and all day kids added notes and signatures to it.

There was food. Oh my gosh, was there food. I didn’t eat anything that wasn’t chocolate until I got home for dinner. Second hour, fourth hour, and sixth hour brought new waves of food. There were store-bought cookies, bag after bag of chips, soda, homemade cupcakes and brownies, and a very sweet Mexican dessert that I can’t remember the name for (it starts with an F).

And there were gifts. I feel so guilty getting gifts from kids. It’s one thing to spend their money on food they’ll help eat, but something different when they bring items just for me. I got a stuffed Paul Stanley doll, a KISS Pez dispenser, a Half-Price Books gift card, and a service bell (I can’t explain why, but I’ve always wanted one, but had never mentioned it).

I got a couple of cards, too. One of them, given to me by an amazing young lady who aspires to be an English teacher herself, nearly forced me out of the room as I read it. There was some kind of evil spell on the card that made my eyes misty as I read. (It seems sentimentality is another symptom of my advanced age.)

I didn’t have to clean up hardly any of the party stuff, either. That is thanks mostly to this incredible young lady named Daisy. Daisy plays Mom to so many of her peers that it’s almost ridiculous. She’s a girl who’s going to make a huge difference in a lot of lives.

I came home to KFC and Creed on DVD. As cheesy as it is at times, I love the Rocky movie franchise. Although the focus was the young son of Apollo in this one, I couldn’t help but focus on the aging Rocky and thinking back to the character and actor and 1976 when it all began. (And yes, Rocky was included on my historical timeline.)

Time slips away from us. There’s no going back. Few of us will end up where we expected to. Many of us won’t even travel the road we expected to when we thought we knew where we wanted to go with our lives. It really is so important to make the most of the days we have. I can’t say I regret all the dead ends I took before becoming a teacher because they all helped make me who I am today, but it’s days like today that remind me that there is no other job I’d rather do.