I carry a small brown, blank-paged book with me at all times. I frequently use it to take notes and to write down clever ideas for brilliant (?) plot lines. It also gets used for more mundane purposes: grocery lists, gift lists and random phone numbers. I need to write things down almost immediately after thinking of them or they escape into the sphere of my unconscious, never to be recalled again.
One odd thing about writing in my notebook is that I’ve discovered I’m hesitant to take notes when I'm sitting next to someone I know. I accept that at this point in life I need to write things down or I simply won’t remember them. I know this. But I also find that I'm slightly uncomfortable about taking notes when a friend is seated next to me. I imagine them evaluating the merit of the information I’m recording, and secretly questioning my ability to discern the essential importance of what we are both hearing. In my more rational moments I recognize that this social paranoia is ridiculous, but at times I still find myself to be a reluctant note-taker.
Last week I went to hear a lecture from Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot, a Harvard professor of Sociology, and author of The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50. The subject matter intrigued me as I am a few years into the Third Chapter of life and am looking forward to discovering what this new phase has to offer. About a third of the way through her lecture I broke out the brown notebook. I wanted to write down Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot's definition of the Third Chapter–"a season in search of a purpose,” and then went on to tantalize her audience by describing this phase as both “bodacious” and “exhilarating.” Sounds worth getting older.
The possibility of a life filled with “risk-taking collaboration and adventurous learning” is very appealing. She told the completely third generation audience that we are each both teacher and learner. We need to nuture our curiosity and let go of our fear of the unknown and our fear of failure. That seems like a recipe for success. Wish I had wholeheartedly embraced this approach in my first and second chapters.
I think I neglected to mention another small limitation to my note-taking–horrible, undecipherable handwriting. My scrawled notes, especially those taken in a dark auditorium, frequently require me to de-code them with the aid of a magnifying glass. I can never quite make out every word of what I've written. I know the professor stressed "the need to calibrate a balance in our lives," something that might have been missing in the earlier chapters. I also wrote down the phrase "graceful in their worlds." Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot was talking about the evolution of the individuals she interviewed for the book. I loved those words. They provide both a powerful aspiration and inspiration. I want to become graceful in my world.