There’s no question that aging involves losses—of loved ones, youthful energy, and physicality. But one thing I find I’ve gained as I’ve gotten older is the appreciation of life and the richness of everyday experiences. This past weekend, I was almost overwhelmed with a tremendous feeling of gratitude.
It began with my annual trip to a local high school to present the Smith College Book Award to a junior who excelled in English. As both an alum and a writer, I was thrilled to present the award to a beautiful young woman of color. All of these outstanding young people at the cusp of adulthood left me with such a sense of wonder and excitement.
The next morning, I worked in my home office on making a few more revisions on my young adult novel that features an African-American protagonist. I felt buoyed by the supportive comments of A-A beta readers that yes, I had the right to tell this story because I’d done my homework and was writing from a place of honesty and deep respect. I sent it off, knowing that in this politically charged climate, there might be no one who would want to touch this novel by a Caucasian writer. But I felt peaceful. I believed in the work, and so did many others who’d read it. Somehow, it would find a home. And if not, that was okay, too.
That afternoon, I participated in a SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day celebration in Louisville organized by playwright Nancy Gall-Clayton and theater director Kathi E.B. Ellis. Ten of us artists spoke about our work and shared what we did. It was incredible! Jenny Pfanenstiel, an internationally recognized master milliner, shared her handmade creations. And I met an amazing music therapist and song writer with a voice from God, Jacqui Blue. Hearing her sing a song she’d written for one of her sisters gave me chills. And then there was a high school student, Zoë Peterson, who became a published playwright at the age of fifteen. Her monologue about school violence was deeply moving. I also got to hear one of my favorite writers, Emma McElvaney Talbott, whose essays on the civil rights movement she has been actively involved in since the 1960s have been a continuous source of inspiration to me. I felt so profoundly grateful to be in such amazing company and to have spent my life in the arts, first in dance and now in writing.
The weekend was capped off by seeing a terrific production of Victor/Victoria presented by Pandora Productions, a Louisville-based theater group dedicated to presenting productions relevant to the LGBTQ community. My husband and I can’t even remember how we got started subscribing to this amazing theater group. Maybe it was because so many friends in dance had been gay. Or maybe it was because colleagues from the arts school I used to direct were in the productions. Whatever it was, we got hooked! The productions are fabulous, and we are reminded again and again that our sexual orientation has very little to do with the universality of the human experience.
All in all, it was a lovely weekend. And my gratitude really does continue to grow with age.