I dropped my work badge and keys in a not-yet-flushed toilet today at the high school where I teach. And not the faculty restroom, mind you, but one frequented by hormonal teenage girls. Disgusting, right? The funny thing is, it didn’t faze me one bit. I quickly reached in, fished by contaminated “stuff” out of the bowl, and went about with my day. (I did wash my hands and later wipe the keys down with a Clorox towlette, so don’t freak out. Even I’m not that carefree!)
But I doubt I would have been so nonchalant twenty years ago. As I complain about increased wrinkling, decreased vision and the other yo-yo perils of middle-age, one thing I do certainly appreciate about hitting my forties is an improved sense of perspective. Little inconveniences and annoyances just don’t stress me out like they used to, and I find it much easier to prioritize the truly important things in life, like family and college basketball (Go Cards!).
I think a lot of this comes from having children. With the number of times I’ve been pooped, peed and vomited on, germs take on a whole ‘nother meaning. I can testify to the classic observation that the first baby always gets the boiled bottles and Drift detergent and the last is lucky to have her pacifier licked after it’s fallen into the sandbox before it gets shoved right back into her adorable, dirt-covered mouth.
Having children also means less time to focus on the meaningless. Can I really be bothered by those who double-dip when I’m racing across town in a mini-van to pick up from Tae Kwon Do after dropping off at jazz before grabbing the eighth gallon of milk for the week? And why should I care if there’s a tiny spot of crud on my restaurant plate if I’m just thankful not to be eating Hamburger Helper for the fourth night in a row?
I actually know people who won’t drink tap water on principle, refuse to use airport restrooms or hotel comforters, and will reject a gloriously-salted McDonald’s French fry because it may or may not have spent a few seconds on the aforementioned mini-van’s floor. Ridiculous, I say! Get over yourself and move on. You’re missing the good stuff for fear of the bad.
Or don’t. I’m old enough now not to care. Sure I need bifocals and am addicted to Retin-A, but I have overcome my hang-ups about cleanliness and mysterious microbes and am ready to embrace life. I don’t want to spend my waning years worrying about or wasting time over E-coli and Ebola. Who’s gonna beat those insane Kentucky Wildcats, now that’s a real issue!