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January 1st, 2021

Oh The Difference A Decade Makes…

On January one, twenty-eleven I was into my second decade at Space Telescope and amazed to be starting work on James Webb.

Barack Obama was president of the United States and it seemed like that long darkness that was the Bush years was over and the nation had been restored to sanity.

I was several years into ownership of my first Mercedes-Benz…a cute little white ‘C’ 300. By the end of 2011 I’d trade it in for my dream come true car…a Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan.

I was a decade into home ownership…a cute little Baltimore rowhouse, a dream I never thought would ever come true. It was within walking distance of where I worked, grocery stores, shopping, restaurants and bars…everything I needed for my day to day life.

I had reconnected with my high school crush after decades of searching for him, and he started flirting with me again just like he did back in high school and I was walking on air again just like I did back in high school. But it was even more terrifying than it was back then because he was deeply closeted and married and I really didn’t want to get in the middle of that. Later that summer of 2011 some sort of personal crisis happened, he dropped out of sight for three months, and when he reappeared he sat me down and we had the strangest miserable conversation I’ve ever had with anyone, and that includes the time someone on mom’s side of the family assured me less than an hour after we’d laid her body to rest in its grave that I couldn’t be family unless I was the same degree of Christian they were.

So it’s a decade later…

I’ve lived through my first heart attack and an atrial fibrillation that sent my heart rate to over 210 beats per minute. EMT told me she’d never seen a heart rate as fast as mine just then in her entire career. 

The Mercedes diesel sedan is paid for.

My little Baltimore rowhouse is still mine, but only halfway paid for. It’s value has increased with the building of many matchstick “luxury” townhouses (they stop calling them rowhouses after the first hundred grand…) nearby. I have a lot of work planned for it this coming year, including new storm doors, a pull down ladder to the roof hatch, and repairs to the front porch tiles. There’s at least two more planks in the backyard deck I’ll be needing to replace. I might have the old carpet taken up and see what condition the wood floor is in…neighbors have had theirs refinished and they look very nice. Also on the wish list is new counter tops and kitchen cabinet doors. And a parking pad. With a charging station. Maybe.

My high school crush and I are not speaking to each other and I’m wondering if fate didn’t actually deal me the lesser of two miseries because I discovered that we’re not very compatible. My sense of humor grates on him, which is probably a cultural difference more than I’m fine with my sexual orientation and he isn’t. But it was his attempts to constrict me into something a little less exuberant after I’d spent decades freeing myself from inhibitions and self doubt beaten into me by schoolyard bullies that really grated on me. I began to feel like I was being suffocated. There’s accepting yourself, your whole self, and there’s accepting that some people will hate you for being that person, even down to the things you can’t help being. By the time we’d reconnected I’d accepted both those things so thoroughly that I think in retrospect it unnerved him. I had to be reined in and I am constitutionally unable to be that.

Oh…and my fellow countrymen elected a racist grifting con man to the White House, and now having lost reelection because he was such a crappy president, is now trying along with the republican party to end The United States of America so he can remain in office in perpetuity. Who would have thought that the party of god fearing patriotism would burn it all down they moment they thought they had a good chance at it.

I’m still working at Space Telescope, in and out of the Mission Operations Center, and now I have a bit of the upcoming Roman Space Telescope, named for Nancy Grace Roman, NASA’s first chief astronomer, who paved the way for space telescopes focused on the broader universe.

My regrets are, as usual, focused almost entirely on matters of the heart. But I think I’m somewhere now that I can see a bit more clearly, that all the what if’s I’ve tormented myself with all these years don’t matter a whit. Nothing I could have done would have changed anything. Let me share a bit of geezer wisdom with you, acquired by yours truly at great personal cost. It’s not how well two people get along that matters, it’s how well they don’t get along. Never mind how perfectly in sync they are politically and intellectually. It matters not that their laughter delights, that their smiles linger. How complementary their personalities are while they’re both in a good mood is of slight importance. When skies are blue everything is easy. It’s how things go when the skies darken and you can hear thunder in the distance. That is where you can see their future. How deep the threads of fondness and desire weave is but a passing moment. To paraphrase a certain someone, happiness is like farting…it stinks for a little while and then it’s gone. It’s the bad moods that matter. How do two people deal with anger. Is the reflex to go to their separate corners and sulk for a while and then have fierce makeup sex, or is it to hoist the Jolly Roger and start lobbing cannonballs?

It’s a new decade and I’d tell myself it’s all for the best and I probably don’t know how good I have it really, except I don’t know if I’ll still have a country when it ends. Or how much longer I have to live. That first heart attack really focuses you on that question. The upside is, as I wrote previously, you stop giving a fuck about a lot of things you probably never should have in the first place.

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