"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


say it was only a dream

When I was six or seven years old, we went to visit my grandparents. One late afternoon, as part of that visit, we drove a couple of hours from their house to a farm where someone was having a party. I don't remember whose party it was, or why we went, or much about who we saw. What I do remember is that I fell asleep on the two-hour drive there, and when I woke up on our arrival, I still believed that I was asleep. I have this distinct memory of sunset on the flat West Texas horizon and talking to a little boy while we were jumping on the trampoline (it was a fun farm) and telling him that none of this was real, that it was all part of my dream.

It wasn't a dream, of course, and I had woken from my nap like all children do after a long car ride. But that night, I was convinced that I was still asleep, and that the reality around me was just an illusion, waiting for the reality of awakeness to come and change everything.

All through growing up and even now, sometimes, I've thought about that and wondered if it has all really been a dream.

Today I turn 30. I'm not handling it well, and no matter how many games of "count your blessings" friends and I play, it's not getting any easier. 30 is just a number; nothing in my life will really change today, but for some reason, it still means something. My twenties - my crazy, around-the-world and back again twenties - are over. In a year, I should finally have a PhD, and I'll finally be able to get on with the real life for which I've been waiting and working so long.

I cannot complain. As my hilarious friend Kate pointed out tonight, I don't have any deformities, and I have insurance, so I'll die in a bed (her words, not mine!). I have a wonderful family, great friends, and secure employment. In the last ten years, I've had more opportunities and seen more of the world than most people ever dream about. I made my and Skip's goal of visiting 30 countries before age 30. I've seen some of the best and worst things people can do for and to one another.

A therapist would have a field day with my 20-something-year-old delusions of living in a dream world, I'm sure. And, sure, there's an element in there. of wondering about the choices you didn't make, the trains you missed, the life you didn't choose. If it's all a dream, then you get a second chance to avoid all your mistakes and fears and wrong turns.

But dwelling on what could have been is no way to live. And what could have been means that that which was would not have been.

The reality is that I've laughed and loved, taught a thousand or so students, and woken up on four continents, over and over again, to find that really living is much better than most dreams. The reality is that I've gone skydiving in San Marcos, climbed mountains on the Blue Ridge, two-stepped in the Congo, avoided sushi like it was the plague in Tokyo, and listened to the ramblings of a crazed Serb in Macedonia. The reality is that, while that little girl on a trampoline somewhere in West Texas has grown up and gone about as far away from home as she could get, I'm still an incredibly lucky woman who is surrounded by love and grace in all corners. Thanks for being part of my real life.


Blogger Gary Snowden said...


As always, I enjoyed your post and the personal reflections about maturing (I think I can say that about turning 30). I especially was drawn to the paragraph about not 2nd guessing past decisions and wondering where a different choice might have led you. It brought to mind Paul's words about forgetting what lies behind and pressing forward toward what lies ahead.

Thursday, May 01, 2008 6:09:00 AM

Blogger CharlieMac said...

First, Happy birthday.
Second, I do not remember my own thirtieth as being upsetting.
Third, when my youngest child turned forty, now that was mind numbing scary! So hold fast the best and the worst are probably yet to come.
Again, Happy Birthday, Teach!
Mac McFatter

Thursday, May 01, 2008 9:48:00 AM

Blogger Shannon De Leon said...

Happy Birthday! If it's any consolation (and it may not be), I thought you were no older than 24 until I asked your age at the Christmas Fair.
I'd say that's a pretty good combination: the looks of early 20's and the wisdom of a well-lived, well-traveled 30-year-old.

Have a great day,


Thursday, May 01, 2008 11:48:00 AM

Blogger Tauratinzwe said...

You're no longer trustworthy!

My generation said, "Don't trust anyone over thirty." Sometimes I think we were half right. We just forgot not to trust anyone under thirty. ;-)

Thursday, May 01, 2008 12:08:00 PM

Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

I found my 30s to be a great decade. Except for the Bush administration, my 40s are going well, too!

Thursday, May 01, 2008 4:06:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Thanks, y'all. :)

Thursday, May 01, 2008 10:35:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have always thought that as long as my life keeps getting better, there is no reason to dread birthdays, even the "big ones." And I do feel my life is on a general upward trend. Sounds like yours is also.

Friday, May 02, 2008 8:46:00 AM

Blogger euphrony said...

Happy b-day! You cane and AARP forms are in the mail :)

Friday, May 02, 2008 10:51:00 AM


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