Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at CSU, Chico

A Cosmic Joke

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Pam Loyd’s career has included being a college counselor and psychology instructor as well as a high school English teacher. Her life-long interests include not only psychology and self-development, but interior design, acting, and creative writing. Pam has led classes in dance and movement for OLLI. She is currently offering “Writing the 10-Minute Play” on Tuesdays this fall.

A cosmic joke has been played on me over the last half century by the little Tricksters in my head, and I am just now beginning to catch on.

The joke is that when I was way younger I actually expected that by the time Paul McCartney and I reached the impossible age of 64—a trillion years into the future—I’d be smarter. I thought, “Someday, when I’m older, I’ll finally have things figured out and know what I’m doing.

I’ll know who I am and why I’m here and what I’m supposed to do with my life, and how to be happy and not make a mess of things. Ah, the arrogance and idiocy of my youth. Because here I am, a trillion years older now, and I still haven’t figured things out!

The Tricksters giggle together behind their hands now that the punch line has been played. But it’s a gentle laugh, not a cruel one, and I’m able to laugh with them and accept that this is just another lesson in life that I needed to learn. Still, it really is quite a surprise to my inner mid-life self to discover that no matter how long I live, I will apparently never actually arrive at that magical place of total security and comfort, where I know all the important answers, resolve all my unfinished issues, and never make stupid mistakes again.

I was all psyched-up, truly, to start the adventure into my next-phase-of-life: retiring from my career, putting my long-time house on the market in Modesto, moving full-time to Chico, looking for a new house, making lots of plans, even volunteering to write a column for the OLLI newsletter, and doing this all at the same time because I-was-eager-to-get-on-with-my-life. I had my bags all packed with smooth-sailing expectations for the trip ahead.

Instead, I find myself in a state of confusion. I feel like I’m racing after a ship that just pulled away, my suitcase full of self-assurances flopping open while my neatly folded easy-wear answers fly out across the pier—and when I try to catch them they flap away like seagulls skimming the waves.

“Comforting answers, come back!” I wail into the wind. But they blow further still. Instead, I am left with my discomforting transitional reality. And the questions: What will I do now? What do I want? Will I be able to find new purpose in my life now that I’ve left my career? Where do I want to live? What kind of house do I want now? How do I build a new life, find new friends, find meaningful things to do? What does the person I am now need to be happy? Who is the person I am now? And am I the only one—or does anyone else ask these things?

I hope life isn’t giving me a test about these questions yet because I don’t know the answers. I need more study time. I need more time to even understand the questions. What am I actually asking? What is life asking of me?

Into this mix came the opportunity to write a column for the OLLI newsletter, with the question–what will the column be about?—which requires (shudder!) an answer. But it occurs to me that perhaps I am not the only one who has more questions than answers in life, so an occasional column about the questions might be worthwhile. Since “question” comes from the word “quest,” and a quest is a journey of exploration into the unknown, I am calling this column Questing 101. Following where questions lead to find not answers—but perspectives.

Published 9/18/14