This past weekend, I became acutely aware how I’m slowing down in middle age.
We’d driven to Brooklyn to visit Naomi and Sam. It’s a drive I did weekly for the year and a half I commuted from Vermont to New York, packing teaching, research and psychotherapy into the three days of my legal alternate-side-of-the street parking spot. When it was time to move the car, I drove back to Vermont.
Back then, I was an aggressive driver and thought it a matter of pride to keep up with traffic, even if it meant driving bumper to bumper at eighty.
To be honest, it was a thrill.
Once, I remember setting the pace for another car with Vermont plates. The driver changed lanes every time I did. He kept up right until I turned onto the Wilbur Cross. He flashed his lights in farewell. I waved.
The last time we drove in, traffic was particularly bad. This time, Naomi offered to meet us at a Metro North station and pilot us to her door. We declined the offer, but took her advice to make a comfort stop before crossing the East River, “in case you hit traffic,” she said.
Back when I commuted, I never stopped to pee, let alone eat a meal. We did both, and good thing, too, because soon as we crossed the Whitestone Bridge onto the so-called Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, traffic crawled.
We were glad to park the car once we arrived. All weekend, we walked or rode the subway around town. I admit to gawking slack-jawed at the metropolitan mélange of humanity, at the urban landscape, at the sounds and sights of the city. I was on the verge of disbelieving I’d ever thrived in this environment, when I noticed how Naomi weaved in and out of pedestrian traffic, strode into the crosswalk even as the numbers were counting down to red, and timed her arrival at the subway just as a train rolled in.
Watching her push forward without exactly rushing but with a relentlessness that comes with urban life, reminded me of my own urban sojourn of navigating crowds, pressing toward appointments, and boarding subway trains just as the doors closed.
In my Vermont life, I walk the dog at a good pace, but I don’t rush. I don’t think this is just a matter of geography; I think it’s also a matter of age.
I was in my twenties when I lived in New York, and I was impatient to get on with life: finish my degree, find a tenure-track position, get on with things.
I was in such a rush when I had so much time ahead of me.
Now, I’m more aware that my time is finite; I’m in no rush for it to end.