What Has -- And Hasn't-- Surprised Me About Getting Older

Ever since I was a young child, I loved assuming the “role of witness”; standing a bit apart from the action, observing the people around me, noticing the small differences that make a big difference. I was not much of a reader; but I was an avid and early journal keeper; at seven or eight-years-old scribbling down the conversations I overheard, noting the family moments when things seemed to fall apart; pondering the questions that were rarely asked or answered (although they seemed to be on everyone’s mind); revisiting the rituals that punctuated every year and filled my heart with excitement and nostalgia.

Over the years, my daily journal entries were not so much opportunities for reflection and introspection, not so much about purging and catharsis, as they were efforts to capture life around me; listening for the voices and the silences. I was, I now know, a budding ethnographer, intrigued by what cultural anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski called life’s “imponderables”; fascinated by seeing the familiar in the strange, and the strange in the familiar.

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