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Being involved by stages

By MIMI BECKER

Coffee with Mimi

Throughout my life, I have been active with various groups, organizations and clubs. Depending on my age and status stage, these activities varied widely.

It is fairly obvious I am of a certain age. For those who may not be as versed in history as those who are of a certain age, this is a big deal. When I was a kid, extracurricular activities were most definitely aligned by gender.  Let’s be honest, there weren’t nearly the opportunities for girls to play in organized sports then as there are now. How great for our girls. Young women today have so much from which to choose all around.

Nevertheless, I always found plenty to occupy my time outside of school hours. When I went off to college, I became involved in the usual range of organizations such as a sorority, volunteer projects through student government and the like.

As a young, single, career person, I needed to look a little harder to engage in activities which were useful. I generally headed in directions suggested by co-workers, new friends or the random boyfriend.  My allegiances to these organizations lasted about as long as the situation in which they were presented.  I joined a women’s soccer team. Having absolutely no experience playing soccer, that was a short lived adventure. I took a class in car mechanics encouraged by a co-worker that I could save lots of money doing my own tune-ups and oil changes. Then I sold the car and the replacement was nothing like the original and I didn’t care enough to be reeducated. The list of activity experiments was lengthy. The length of dedication to the activities, not quite so.

And then, I got married and had children.

We occasionally play trivia at a local restaurant. When a question is introduced with the phrase, “this one is from the ‘80s or ‘90s,” I groan.  I was in a different business during that general period. I had kids and a job and that was my world. I might be able to dredge up something useful in a trivia category if it involved major world events, but definitely nothing of pop culture.

Instead, it was time for life with children, both professionally and personally. We served as PTO presidents, swim parents, chauffeurs, cooks and bottle washers. I even volunteered as a coach of the girls’ cheerleading team rec league. That was an adventure similar to the soccer team experience for the exact same reason. The upside for the girls was I could sew and made adorable little green pleated jumpers for every team member. The parents were pleased with my cost-saving talents, if not for my abilities to actually coach cheerleading.  I wonder if any of those little darlings went on to superlative cheering careers. I know my two little ones didn’t aspire to the goal.

Now, my kids are off making their own activity histories. I get to make my choices for how to spend my time and there is no shortage of opportunities available.  I do not regret a single past endeavor, even the season as a cheer coach. Each opportunity left me with at least some new knowledge, and often a few stories to share resulting from varying levels of ineptitude. Now, it all boils down to learning something new, doing something useful and spending time with like-minded people.   

Actually, the gold standard is spending time with like-minded people. Learning something new and being useful just naturally flow from the folks around me. Remembering back to the car mechanics episode, I learned something new, but the motivation to adapt the cost saving skill necessary to my new vehicles wasn’t a priority. Could it be that there was absolutely no connection to any individual involved in the activity?  There was no one with whom to share a mutual drive to maintain our cars over a period extending past the last day of class.

In this new era of my life, I find people first. I have interests I have been saving for my retirement and I gravitate toward people who are of like mind and patient. Patience is a virtue as I always told my students. I have been introduced to some of the most creative and patient people who are willing to teach me, or are too polite to say “no.”

I can offer comic relief at times. Recently, on a group project, I had to start a quilt block over having made a rookie mistake on the first attempt. On the second try, I made another error which wasn’t caught until quite a way in. The group decided to cut their losses, let me keep going and consider the product the “mistake” for the mission. Perhaps, no one would notice in the end. That’s what I like about these people.  It’s the spelling bee mentality, I’ll never make that mistake again yet I am inspired by the ladies to keep at it, if I want to,  and I do.  Learn something new, be useful, and most of all, enjoy the company.