In this American society I found some comfort and encouragement – women are not expected to fail, or at least, women were encouraged to do the best they can, and to pursue their goals. They can choose to be housewives, but there is no one stopping them from pursuing further studies and challenging careers. It can be difficult to keep a job when the woman had to look after the kids and keep the house as well, but the important thing was that women had a choice.
I found that I can rely on my relatives to take baby-sit my daughter while I worked two jobs to get us through and me through the divorce. I found my employers very understanding of my situation, being flexible when my daughter is sick or when there is a family emergency. Further, they have given me the tools and the opportunities to succeed, to further my studies and be better at my work and opened new prospects for me as well.
I have come a long way from the young girl back in Jamaica, I have become better with handling my emotions and understanding and accepting others, and I attribute it with the wisdom that comes with the experience I gained as I aged. Seeing what is positive within the experience, rather than just seeing the negative, is also something that is an important part of the learning process, and counts in a large way towards the way in which the character is formed – which, of course, is the same for the opposite.
I suppose, upon reflection, that I have always held a lot of respect for those people who have managed to get the rare balance of retaining youthfulness, while maturing with grace – those who show attributes such strength, and wisdom, but who are also comfortable and assured with who they are, and looking forward to the many other prospects that present themselves now that life has moved on to a different stage, rather than bemoaning their lot.
These are my heroes, my models – my mother and grandmother both, who have recognized that life is all about what we make of it, and age is about as relative as any other factor that affects the quality of life. There were so many things to learn from, to discover my possibilities and see myself clearly as a woman. I have learned from my divorce and struggling with two jobs the value of money and investing, of being able to support one’s self and having some at the bank and something stored for the future.
I have learned from my mother and grandmother that living healthy does not spare one from the realities of sickness and disease, of cancer and the crippling effect of losing control of one’s own limbs. I have learned from observation that old people even with their accomplishments are necessarily fulfilled, because they may be alone, or suffering from some pain, physical or emotional. I have seen that old women face the added pressure from society to hold on to their beauty, while men can age and be regarded as more manly, women who age and sag lose their desirability and value in the eyes of the public.
Generalizations/Theories I have learned that aging is much more than just the physical body getting older and changing. Biological theories tell us that we age because of free radicals and cells degenerating, that our bodies’ immune system declines, that the damage on our bodies accumulates over time. By virtue of the body being organic, I cannot help but agree with the science of it: the body ages because of wear and tear, the organs will eventually wear themselves out no matter how healthy one’s lifestyle is, no matter how many supplements I take.
Cross-linkage theory further acquaints me with the prospect of my skin sagging because of the loss of elasticity in the skin primarily because of reduced collagen. With all these biological concerns, I am on the look out for all kinds of degeneration, including the possibility of thinning hair, breast cancer, and growing deaf. More than what can ail my body I am concerned with what will become of me in society.
Disengagement theory tells me that as I age it is only normal that I become more separated with active roles in society, and it is beneficial for both me and the society. I lean towards the Activity theory however, because I have seen my own grandmother and mother struggle against death and make the most of their lives. Far from resting and living for themselves, they sought to do more for others, for us. They lived full lives and gained satisfaction with not wasting any minute of it.