John Cougar Mellencamp, I Beg to Differ

Hold onto 16 as long as you can
Changes come around real soon
Make us women and men.

In the midst of the heat this afternoon, Jenn and I sat in my living room talking about the downsides of self-employment and minor workaholism. We'd come to no solid conclusions (to contract out or no? Will s-e taxes kill us both? Is it ever totally possible to separate the personal and professional realms?) when Jenn looked out the window and asked, "Well, what's happening here?"

On the stoop of the house across the way (i.e., the house that's born more than its fair share of vexations and bad luck) we saw what appeared to be a young couple, a boy and a girl who seemed to be around 15. They sat close, both facing ahead with their feet on the sidewalk, and the girl appeared to be crying. Though we couldn't hear what they said (not even when, channeling my always lovely but sometimes nosy grandmother, I opened my front door), we surmised from what we could see of their faces and body language that we were witnessing a breakup.

Jenn and I kept chatting, and the probably-a-breakup continued, with more tears from the girl and a relatively straight but clearly sad face on the boy. When J left around 6.20 and I opened the gate to walk her out, the pair looked up at us briefly before turning back to their grief.

That grief continued until well past 8, with varying degrees of drama (including, at one point, the girl on her knees on the sidewalk in front of the fellow, in a posture I can only describe as beseeching and somewhat Shakespearean). I didn't see them leave.

There is, I think, a particular flavor of heartbreak and sadness and disappointment that you can feel only in your teens. It's so sharp and new and often unexpected that it's hard to know what to do with, and the first few times you feel it you're sure--up and down sure--that it will never go away.

It does go away, of course, and after enough times through the cycle of elation and crashing and emptiness and utter overflowing goodness you come to understand that none of it lasts forever. But no one can tell you that and have you believe it; you have to go through the wringer a few times on your own. For many of us--for me, at least--much of that wringer-going happens somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 19.

And it's for that reason that, as Jenn and I tried to spy this afternoon, I said, "15: an age I'm happy I never have to be again." It was a great place to be for a little while, that land of teendom, but I was happy to move out of it, and happy not to have to go back.

And so, sweet weepy teens, at least one of whom appeared to have your heart broken this evening, I would tell you that things will mend in time, that your first love is almost never your last, that someday soon-ish all of this will fade, but you might not believe that telling. So instead I'll say that despite whatever sweetness your high school years may bring, and regardless of what John Cougar Mellencamp might claim, there's a lot to be said for letting go of 16 as soon as it's gone.



Last night, as Josh and I were moderating a panel discussion on burnout at the NAPO chapter meeting, what started as a flutter of fatigue somewhere in my chest rapidly, and scarily, became the sensation that I would fall on my ass (or my face, depending how I stood) if I did not get out of the room and sit down immediately. I whispered to Josh, I need to go, and slipped out of the room as unobtrusively as one can slip out of a room one happens to be at the very front of, with all eyes in her direction.

In the hall, I found a chair near an unused conference room and sat down with my head back, my pulse racing and a thin veneer of sweat on my face. I eventually got up and made my way to the bathroom, where I sat for a while before splashing some water on my face and slipping back into the room via a side door. There I stood, propped against the doorframe, until the panel was over.

The irony was not lost on me: while moderating a discussion on how to avoid burnout, I managed to spiral down into my own little pool of exhaustion-induced messiness. (You turned a totally different color, Josh said to me later. That was freaky.) Even despite what was more or less an Actual Day Off last Sunday, I still feel like I've been working non-stop for months. That has seemed like a necessity, but it's a pace I can't sustain, and the thought that I might wind up as some sort of overwork poster child is an unpleasant one. I will not become a Lifetime movie, so help me god. My body will see to that, evidently, even if my mind disagrees.