Like a book, life can be divided into chapters. This is perhaps an instance of art following reality, or perhaps it’s the other way around. The episodic nature of life suggests the chapter structure of books. As I was waking up this morning (disappointingly before 4:00 a.m.) I was reflecting on the chapters of my life. As with a book, the most recently read decade is perhaps freshest in one’s mind, but the decades do seem to fall roughly into format. We tend to think of that first decade—childhood—fondly, even if in reality it wasn’t all games and candy. It’s biology’s way of encouraging us toward that weird teen chapter of puberty with its intense emotions and maturing bodies. That chapter is recalled, at least in my experience, as a turmoil involving both good and bad.
The twenties, in my book, were spent in higher education. It was a cerebral chapter. Finishing college and starting grad school. Finishing a masters and discovering employment difficult to find with a master’s degree. In my book marriage was in the twenties chapter, along with a doctorate. The next chapter, the thirties, was spent entirely at Nashotah House. That involved becoming a father as well as a professor. The other faculty were fathers of a different sort. I always thought chapters should show some continuity but the forties chapter was that part of the book known as the crisis. The upending of convention. The self-reinvention. The move. I suppose in terms of a novel that was when it started to get really interesting, but from my perspective life had been plenty interesting enough by that point.
The fifties have been a bit more settled. The publishing chapter. The house-buying move added drama, of course, but otherwise the nine-to-five is like a mind-numbing drug. Mine involved a commute that lead to its own unpublished book, as well as two somewhat academic tomes. All of this was going through my head the way thoughts do when you can’t force yourself back to sleep. The paradigm suggests itself to someone who has, in one form or another, been writing for his entire life. Or writing his life. My first attempts at being a novelist began in chapter two. On yellowed paper somewhere in the attic I still have that first handwritten attempt at literary expression. The current chapter has me becoming a gruncle (with a nod to Gravity Falls fans) and wondering how a great niece might read a book written like this. If she will even have an interest. That’s the way of books, as any librarian knows. Maybe some warm milk and a cookie are indicated.