Earth Day 4/22/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

April 22 is Earth Day. This holiday shares my birthday and was founded in 1970. I was founded on this same day but in 1963, so, yes, I am older than the Earth.

Once again, like it or not, it’s here. Yet another birthday. My fifty-seventh to be specific.

Fifty-seven. God, has it been so long?

My birthdays are somber occasions for me. A time of reflection and regret as I look back on my previous year and contemplate what went right, what went wrong, and what I want to do differently this year.

Historically they have always been lonely days. My parents would go out for supper on my birthday and allow me to pick the restaurant. I only wish they took me with them.

Okay, that was meant as a joke.

In college I would buy a summer sausage, cheese and sparkling apple cider and sit in a park alone to celebrate. For two of my birthdays, I had a wife and those were probably lonelier than most. My wife, who soaked up attention on her birthday, used mine to berate me. As my birthday approached, she would frequently tell me that just because it’s my birthday it doesn’t make me a king. Frankly, as a man who feels like he deserves nothing, I don’t think I would even know how to act privileged even if I wanted to. Personally, I enjoyed spoiling her on her birthday, because for me, that was just my way of saying that I’m glad she was here to be a part of my life.

So, I understand why she didn’t reciprocate.

It has been a rocky year. I survived with the help of good friends who allowed me to live with them. This was truly a blessing, an opportunity to get closer to them, to get to know them and make them part of my life in a much more significant way than would have been possible otherwise. I’m grateful for that and hope I have not been a burden to them in their lives.

I returned to teaching chemistry, albeit only in a part-time and temporary fashion. This brought in at least a little bit of income and has helped me realize that I probably belong in this profession. Unfortunately, I’m still struggling with the kinds of self-important students that drove me away from teaching in the first place, but I’ve also had a lot of great students who showed appreciation for my efforts and has helped me regain a bit of my confidence. Unfortunately, the negative students are very quick to complain, and administration is quicker to believe them.

As my car payments fell behind, it was finally repossessed. I’m surprised they didn’t do so sooner than they did, though. This means that for a significant part of the year I’ve had to ride public transportation. And I have no idea why, but when things like this happen, it always seems to be in the middle of winter. Standing in freezing cold waiting for a bus is something I could have done without, but it was also an interesting growing experience for me. When I was a child, my mother and I would ride the bus to my swim lessons, but I hadn’t ridden public transportation since. Not only did I ride it, but I had to learn to rely on it, and I have come to have great appreciation for the service it provides. The next time I drive past a bus, I’m certainly not going to be as annoyed as I had been in the past.

I did buy a vehicle. I’m reticent to call it “new” since it’s almost a quarter century old now, but I appreciate having it. It’s basically a workhorse, in good shape, and seems to be reliable, but also has far more cargo space than any vehicle I’ve had to date. It’s not speedy like my last car, but at this point in my life, I’m not in a hurry anyway. The biggest “selling point” the car dealer had as we were walking towards it on the lot was “well, it starts.” And believe me, “it starts” is a big deal for a car that I could purchase, completely, with the Coronavirus incentive check. I have to roll down the window to open my door, but I’ve decided this is a charming quirk.

The car is a big step in returning to some semblance of normalcy. Now I can be open about jobs that require longer commutes than public transportation can accommodate, and job interviews. So that’s probably my biggest goal; to find some form of permanent employment this year, and hopefully make enough money to get my own place to live.

Wish me luck.

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