This morning I woke up and Joasia had turned forty years old. This is going to be an unusual birthday for her due to the lockdown. We had a conversation about whether she felt forty years old and she said no. I think most people have that feeling. I think the feeling is born from the fact that when we defined what forty years old looked like, we were twelve, living in a completely different time, where people who were forty had lived harder lives than we did. So what came to define “forty” was a life of often physical labour, bad food, worse relationships and then the normal rigours of time. Now that we have hit forty, it just doesn’t seem the same. We’ve had access to better healthcare, more extensive knowledge on how to remain healthy; better eating habits, better exercising habits, better separation of professional and private life, and a better understanding of what constitutes mental health.
It made us both consider how far we’ve come, from the girl growing up behind the Iron Curtain, to the law professor now living and thriving in England, and the boy who grew up in a poor family of scum and villainy who found himself by her side. I was the first in my family to earn a college degree, hot on my heels was my cousin Kim, three months my junior. And now my brother has earned his bachelor’s degree. Three people in that generation. (It’s a large family, and a large generation, so perhaps there have been a few others since, but not that I’ve heard of.) Generations of nothing, and then suddenly a generation that produced three (possibly more) college graduates. That’s a good indication that times have changed for the better. There is still a lot to do, and a lot to improve, however. And while we sometimes take a step back, I am confident that we will continue to take two steps forward.