Dear Courage: Will You Be My New Bestie?

Posted on
10 Oct 2013
by Pamela Fordham

I won't lie...when I saw Gladys Knight and her "pip" dancing and singing hip hop style on the Queen Latifah Show, I started cracking up! The song called "Old School" was from her latest cd entitled Another Journey. I think the specific lyric that caught me off guard was in the rap at the beginning of the song: "I wanna take you way back-like my pop's hairline." And I might have turned the channel right at that moment were it not for the energy of the song, Gladys' smooth vocals and the fun, "Yeah, we are doing this!" attitude of her backup singers. After a few minutes I had to put the remote down so I could clap along, and by the end of the song, I was dancing right along with them, and now, days later, I still can't get the song out of my head. I've even created my own fade-out chant, "Go seniors, go seniors, go seniors, go seniors!"

What exactly is going on with the senior community? Did Betty White's comeback drizzle some mist from the Fountain of Youth into the atmosphere? Tina Turner re-invented the word fabulous when she got married this past July, and a couple of weeks ago, I tearfully watched seventy- something year old Valerie Harper dance circles around terminal cancer and a wounded knee on an episode of Dancing with the Stars! On the same episode of the Queen Latifah Show that featured Gladys Knight, ninety year old Phyllis Sues enthusiastically revealed the highlights of her youthful life that started when most people are slowing down. At fifty, she started a fashion studio; at seventy, she learned two new languages; at eighty-three, she "flew on a trapeze"-like for real; and at eighty-five she started Yoga.#Agedefiers!

Of course their stories are extraordinarily inspiring, but there is still a temptation to attribute their activity to having privileged lives or at the very least, good genes. The "hater" in me wants to deny that it is possible for me to live the same way, but deep down, I know that genetics is no more responsible for their active lives than it is for my choice to be inactive.

During her interview Gladys Knight said that one of the best pieces of advice she had ever received (from Tina Turner) was to never be afraid to reinvent yourself. I'm pretty sure the concept of a person's ability to reinvent him/ herself has a lot to do with why I love being a teacher. Over the course of four years, I get to observe and sometimes contribute to the re-invention of hundreds of teenagers. Sometimes the changes are great, and sometimes the changes are not so great, but the possibilities that come with change are always exciting to anticipate. As educators, we prepare our students to enter the "real world" where, in theory, the number of platforms for reinvention should be even greater. And it probably would be except for the fear that takes hold.

The cold- hard truth that keeps most of us as observers of the "Agedefiers" instead of being actual participants is the powerful and relentless grip of fear. Fear starts tapping on our shoulders at an early age indoctrinating us with limits, boundaries and lines that we should never dare to cross. Fear knows that if it can blur our vision long enough, we'll eventually go completely blind. I can hear Fear whispering in my ear trying to drown out the click of the computer keys as I write this blog: "Psst...You're not a good writer... .Hey you... Nobody cares what you think. Yo! Loser...You're wasting your time..."

I think I played my role in the "Those Who Can't Do, Teach" drama long enough, so I'm breaking up with my couch - a close companion for entirely too long. I think I need a new "bestie" and his name is Courage.

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