Wading In

I turned 60 today. I can now get 15% off at the Bay the first Tuesday of every month. This is serious shit.

To mark the occasion, I’ve set a big, hairy goal for myself. I’ll be studying the Greek language, aiming for conversational fluency. Or as close to it as I can get. When I feel ready, I’ll hop on a plane, sans family or friends, and spend some time in Greece. (I consider myself more than fortunate to have a family that supports this scheme.)

Why Greek? The flippant answer is: Why not Greek? There’s more to it, of course: I had a Greek best friend growing up, so fried eggplant and spanakopita push some nostalgia buttons in me. Greek also seems hard enough to give my brain a good workout. Not quite as tough as Japanese, which I learned at 33, but a lot farther from my comfort zone than, say, Italian or Portuguese. More than ego_greeknough challenge for this aging brain.

Until about a week ago, I was blabbing to everyone about how awesome 60 is going to be. How the big day will flip a switch in me: I will no longer talk about doing things, I’ll just do them. I’ll be big and bold. I’ll blaze through my Greek lessons, write like a crazy woman, get chatty with strangers, while continuing to hold down the home fort. I won’t have time for self-doubt anymore: life’s too short and all that.

Well. Who was I kidding? A week ago I was fingering sweaters in a clothing store when the bubble burst. Reality slammed into me, sending my racing pulse to my temples: I was turning 60, that’s all. I would drag the same old personality, self-doubt and all, into my seventh decade. I would still be me. Denial has an expiry date, I guess.

Which brings me right back to my original problem: I want to pack as much as I can into the healthy days and years I have left. At the same time, the pressure of “living to the max” makes me feel a little crazy. I want to push myself, and also want the freedom to not push myself.

What if Gone Greeking is just too big for me? What if I crash or fizzle? A friegreek-circlend put it to me this way: “Don’t rush in, wade in.” Wading doesn’t mean you avoid the water altogether, it means you get to feel its soothing undulations. You feel it lapping at your ankles, your knees, then tickling your shoulders. That sounds about right to me.

The Greeking part begins today, when I crack open my first grammar book. The Gone part will begin when I feel ready. It may be a year from now, it may be later than that. Don’t ask me what I’ll do there. I see myself talking to shopkeepers, eating lots of feta cheese, learning a stringed instrument of some kind and just… seeing what happens. Wading in.