When I’m 64
In a few days I will begin the journey back to the States after more than 4 months living and working in Korea. In 1967 when I was 18 and graduating from high school, the Beatles song “When I’m 64” was at the top of the charts. 64 was old then and far away from any reality I had. I sang the lyrics and laughed about being old someday and off I went on my life’s journey. Well, here I am about to be 64, realizing how young that now seems, at least in my world, and looking ahead to the next adventure my life will bring. These past four months have given me so much more than I could have imagined.
I have loved the simplicity of my life; no car, a small apartment, a bike, an enviable teaching job and all of this with the love of my life. I have made some wonderful friends. I’m in a great book club with incredible women; a terrific yoga class and I have a massage person that has kept my body moving, while keeping my spirit intact. We have travelled within Korea, visited Beijing and we have a bike trip across Vietnam planned for August. I have trained for my July triathlon and I feel ready. I look forward to great meals with friends and family, hanging out with our children and grandchildren and being islanders for a while.
My age has been an interesting sidebar throughout this journey. I often forget that I am, by far, older than everyone else I work with and play with. I find myself thinking sometimes that we are all the same age and suddenly we pass a mirror and I wonder what my mother is doing in Korea. I’m often reminded of this in less subtle ways, for example, I went to have a pedicure with a group of women friends and the manicurist wanted to know which of these women was my daughter. Now, truth be told, I could be the mother of any one of them. But really? Do you have to ask?
I think many of my students were initially disappointed when they walked into my first class. There are lots of young and very good-looking professors that they might have imagined swooning over the whole semester. As they sat there, perhaps, dreading a semester with the “old “ teacher, they soon learned that in spite of my age, it was going to be a fun class: less rules, more laughing and singing, mistakes encouraged and even some dancing. This allowed any feelings of dread to dissipate pretty quickly. The semester was filled with loads of learning in every direction.
During the final exam a student’s response to one of the questions was: “I don’t know the answer, but I love you.” A pleasing answer, but no points on that question. Other students thanked me at the end of their exam for all they learned. One of my students said I was like a “Grandma” to him. YIKES! Wait a minute, your grandma? Couldn’t he at least have said his aunt? It was meant with the utmost of respect and love. Always a reminder that, although, I am going to be 64 I am still able to have an impact on students. I taught them writing and encouraged them to think creatively. This is not easy in a culture that values sameness and uniformity, where making mistakes is not considered a learning process. They wrote stories about their hopes and dreams and they read their stories to me and to each other. I am proud of these students and look forward to the boundless potential next semester.
As the semester ended, I received this email from one of my students.
“Marsha hello? My name is Tommy in Tuesday and Friday Practical English class. At the end of semester I think my writing is very nice, better than before your class. For me, you are the second foreigner teacher in my whole life. Frankly speaking, I am not good at English, but when I was kid, I went to English kindergarten. So, I met many foreigner teacher. But I remember only one teacher. Next is you!! You teach me how to write, how to solve problems. Especially, how to write is very expressive. I know double space, indenting, capital letter, T-E-E structure. But more thanks to you is to give me confidence. You said our class was OK to make mistakes!! That gave me confidence. You are good teacher. I hope to meet you next semester. I want to talk with you more. Maybe you too?? hahaha 🙂 Have a nice summer vacation Marsha!! good bye~~~ “
If this is the impact I had on one student, it is all worth it.
“Will you still need me when I’m sixty four?”
I think so.
Stay in touch and I will too.