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Last In Line

by Adrienne Cannon

Okay, I am trying to be older and wiser and to act the part of a mature grownup. But I want to whine ... just a little. How come when I was younger, I was better? I mean, not always, but mostly, I came in first. I was the fastest runner, the best reader and speller, the first one done with class work and tests and the quickest to master a new task in school.

Is it my memory that falters and is so selective that I dont recall past failures? Or is it that when I was younger, I worked harder at surpassing and ignored the rough moments? I havent yet lost the drive to succeed. Those who know me are quite supportive when they hear about some new exploit I have undertaken. My friends cheered me on when I found my old clarinet and began taking lessons, when I put on tap shoes and joined a tap class and when I persist in writing essays.

Now I am not whining because I dont enjoy any of these pursuits. I love all of them and work enthusiastically to master new skills. The trouble is, I dont excel at any of them. I dont ask to be the best anymore. I have mellowed enough to be able to handle second or third best. And in the activities in which I participate, there is really no last position. But it feels that way!

I cant sight-read music the way I used to or play the harder passages well even after practicing them many times. I can gamely follow the tap teacher as she teaches each routine, but cant remember the combinations to repeat them the next time the class meets. What has happened to me? Yes, I am older and often it is my younger colleagues who have a quicker physical reaction time and who can master skills faster than I.

Sensibly, I console myself with good advice. You dont have to be first to enjoy what you are doing, I say in a whisper as I struggle to remember those steps. Or Youll get it if you keep trying, I think as I practice again and again those musical passages that elude me. But what I hear loud and clear, underneath all my encouraging thoughts, is Sure, you do okay ... for your age.

Well, perhaps now is the time for me to use the intelligence my mature age can impart. I can get to the top of my class if I participate in something that has age categories. I applaud my 80-year old friend at the gym because she is first in her category and try to emulate her by reaching the top in mine. Some activities dont require ranking and so, for example, I can be proud and pleased with my ability to use computers creatively.

I look around during rehearsals and classes and dont see many of my age who are as persistent or energetic in trying to perfect their skill. I feel successful in many of the things I do, in spite of not being the best performer. Maybe being first or the fear of being last are illusions that I can now let go ... at my age.

©Adrienne Cannon

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