There was big news at the pool today. We have a brand new baby Sandhill Crane.
The first litters of baby Sandhill Cranes, born in March, are growing fast. People say you can almost see them grow in front of you if you watch them for any length of time. After only about eight weeks, the little hatchlings are now almost indistinguishable from their mommies and daddies. Sandhill Cranes apparently stay with their parents for about ten months after birth, but they cease to look like babies very quickly. All of us human types have been watching this year’s crop of babies with keen interest. Last year, we had three chicks. Sadly, only one made it to launch time ten months after birth.
So it was a very big deal when Mommy and Daddy Crane strutted by the clubhouse this morning, proudly showing off their little late spring miracle. As they paraded by, we all made cooing noises, expressing our delight in their achievement. We have high hopes for our new little late hatcher.
I think I am a bit of a late hatcher myself. I was a prissy, nerdy, know-it-all little kid. I was an abysmal failure at being a teenager. I married the first man who asked me, certain it would be my only chance. I spent that marriage isolated and ashamed of whoever it was that I was. I took a multi-part exam for a civil service position. Although I scored extraordinarily well on almost every part test, I focused on the fact that I scored only one point above the minimum passing score on one part of the exam. I considered myself lucky to be offered any job at all. I didn’t really consider whether the job I was offered was something that I would find interesting or satisfying. I just took it and breathed a sigh of relief that the selecting officials had not noticed my ineptitude at that pesky Visual Reasoning portion of the exam.
It wasn’t until several years into my career that I realized I actually had a number of attributes that were a perfect fit for success at the job. I was an intelligent, quick learner. I was kind and compassionate towards people. I was an exceptionally hard worker. In the absence of any real talent, I used these attributes to craft a successful career.
As I became more competent, I felt like I had value and I gained confidence to try new things. I became a collaborator and a teacher and a mentor to others. I began to see some uniqueness in my contribution. People began to respect me and, then, as they grew to know me, to like me. I used to say people liked me because I was completely inoffensive. It wasn’t that people gravitated naturally to me or that I had some special charisma or that I could offer others any particular benefit. It was simply that there wasn’t anything to really not like about me- I was easy-going and would tend to go along with what others wanted to do. I hated conflict and avoided disagreeing with anyone. While people did often express appreciation to me for help I provided over the years and tried to reassure me of my unique value, I think I believed they were mostly just being kind.
I was quite shocked by the outpouring of genuine affection and appreciation when I retired. It was a revelation I wish I had realized much earlier in life. Somewhere along the way, I stopped being just someone who didn’t piss people off and became someone with actual talent and positive influence. I’m not sure when it happened, but I am so glad it did.
Now that I’ve stopped working and have taken some time to reflect, the revelation is even clearer to me. I realize that, somewhere rather late in the game, I started hatching and becoming the person I was actually always meant to be. Now, in retirement, I am trying to break out of the shell that still remains. Without the distraction of work, there is a wonderful opportunity to experiment with who I want to be. As disorienting as transitioning into retirement can be, it is so worth it. I never realized how big my world could be when I was struggling so hard to break through the shell.
So let’s hear it for the late hatchers! Maybe there is a little late spring miracle in all of us. I’d like to think so. Nobody should peak at 30! Since the average lifespan for a person living in the United States is nearly 79 years, that would mean most of us would be looking at an awfully long downhill slide. Once we think we’ve peaked, it might just mean it is time to start looking for another mountain to climb. Or another layer of shell from which to hatch!
So what do you think? Have you found new ways to hatch in your later years? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a wonderful, wondering day!