By Richard Bleil
Sitting in a long-stay hotel room in Omaha, tomorrow is yet another first in a life full of them because tomorrow I will walk into the first chemistry classes I will have taught in quite some time.
It’s been quite the journey that lead me here, to a strange city, where I know few people, once again alone, once again starting over, once again hoping things will work out. I guess it’s reasonable for me to reflect on the troubled pathway my life has taken, and to be concerned that that in my mid fifties, I’m closer to the end of my life than the beginning.
Well into my fifties, this is the time I should be slowing down, preparing to take account of my retirement accounts, figuring out how much longer until I can call it “quits”. Instead, I have nothing, I have no plans, I’ve lost nearly everything, and I’m starting over.
Starting over. I’m too old for this.
Aren’t I supposed to be settled in to a life by now? I am friends with many of my former students on my social page, and I delight in seeing them moving on with their lives. I have so many students who have landed terrific jobs, have what seem to be wonderful spouses, with great kids. It’s such a mixed blessing. I am truly happy for them; so excited to see them happy, successful, and moving forward, while wishing I could have what they have found for themselves.
And here I am, starting over.
I’ve always wanted to have such a life; wife, children, little house, it sounds like a dream. But I guess it’s just not meant for all of us. I guess I’ve been too far on the fringe. People tell me I’m smart; I dunno. I’m just me, but if I’m perceived as such, I guess it’s kind of intimidating.
I suppose that’s a moot point. I’ve been single in large cities and small, with a great income and no income, in academia and industry all to no avail. But now, here in Omaha, I’m starting a new business and adjunct teaching. I have a few contracts, so my business is starting to move. As far as tomorrow goes, I’m not concerned. Chemistry does’t change from one year to the next (at least not at the first year chemistry level), and even though I haven’t taught (at least not chemistry) in quite some time, I have a couple of decades of experience, and I have no doubts that It’ll come back.
But, the odd thing is that I used to get nervous before the first day of class. I’m quite calm tonight. I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to prepare. Only today did I get the syllabus up, and we’re supposed to have a preliminary knowledge quiz tomorrow that isn’t written yet. So why aren’t I more nervous?
Is it that I’ve become accustomed to new starts? God knows it’s happened enough. My former students, I hope, will have a continuous, smooth, logical and happy life fold out in front of them. Mine dropped on me like a meteor storm.
Or have I simply given up? It seems like there’s just nothing left to fear. It’s clear that my life will run its course with nobody special. I think this is actually a blessing. Not for me, of course, but I will tell you the truth; I’m glad the struggles and turmoils of my life were never inflicted on anybody else. This has been a difficult life, with too many false bottoms falling out from under me. I’ve lived in Dayton, Cincinnati, Boston, New York City, West Lafayette in Indiana, Madison in South Dakota, Sioux Falls in South Dakota, Rapid City in South Dakota, and now Omaha. I”ve had industrial jobs, been a professor, been a forensic lab supervisor, been a dean, been a business owner, and even worked retail. I’ve had jobs that included insurance, and jobs that didn’t pay enough for me to carry it. I’ve been healthy, ill, and even dead. I’ve lived in hotels, apartments, with friends, and been a homeowner. I can’t imagine being in love, being married, and dragging her through all of this. I think that would break my heart more than being alone.
So, let’s see where this goes. I have a couple of clients, a few leads, a small income, so I might survive. I doubt if I’ll finally start to live, though.