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Chuck Brooks column: There are a few advantages to getting older

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens’ opening to his novel A Tale of Two Cities best describes this time of year in school. People, young and old, feel the close proximity of summer, yet it’s far enough away that managing 35 teens in a room becomes an exhausting challenge.

I think I handle “exhausting challenges” better than I used to. There are a lot of things I probably handle better than I used to. That’s not necessarily all good or bad either. As I’ve grown older, I realize I tolerate less, worry less about what others think, and I am beginning to take full advantage of the situation where someone might wave off any of my comments they don’t take kindly to by saying it’s a sign of my age. I’m ok with that. As a matter of fact, I may even take advantage of my “place in life.” One might as well use “getting older” to their advantage!

Recently, I had my annual eye exam which should have happened three years earlier. I wear glasses. I expected a prescription change. Face it. Years of grading essays will take a toll on the eyes of the English teacher. However, I did not expect to jump TWO levels in my prescription. After I left the eye exam, I went directly to order my new glasses. Did I mention TWO levels? Ok. Getting older also has its drawbacks.

If you have glasses, you know what difficulty lies in choosing the new frames that will sit on your face for the next few years. I always think I should have another opinion holder with me when I make decisions like these, but alas. I didn’t wait to give anyone in my world that wonderful opportunity. The decision was going to be mine and mine alone. Scary stuff.

I didn’t stray terribly far from the glasses I had been wearing for four years, but there were some subtle changes. A thicker frame. Brown instead of metal. I tried on a couple pair of horn-rimmed glasses. I love horn-rimmed glasses. I’ve always loved horn-rimmed glasses. When I put them on, they screamed “NO!” However, they only screamed that because I knew I’d get a ton of guff from those I see at school. I looked a little dorky in them. Regardless, I have decided I will get a pair once summer arrives and wear them when it’s only me. I’d like to have a back-up pair anyhow. So, why not a frame I love? I’d probably wear them when I returned to Wisconsin to see my siblings. I’d probably tolerate their response better, and I’d be freer to respond back with words I might not be able to use on school grounds.

The actual glasses adventure didn’t end there. Next came a decision I had always thought I should make but never did it. I returned two days later, after giving consideration to the next financial output I’d be making, and ordered prescription sunglasses. All my friends said they loved theirs and how I’d love mine. I thought, What’s to love about sunglasses?

I love my new sunglasses. Love them. Love!

I’ve always been a creature who enjoyed the simple things in life. People who truly know me know I simply love the little stuff no one else gets too excited about, and it doesn’t take a whole lot to make me happy. I’m the guy who walks out of Barnes and Noble with a new book in hand, feeling like a million bucks is in my Barnes and Noble bag.

I was wearing my new sunglasses the other day as I drove through Starbucks to pick up a summer beverage, and one of my former students was at the drive-through window. When he saw me pull up, he greeted me and said, “I like the shades, Mr. Brooks.” Confirmation. Cool shades. I had made yet another successful decision. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see me out and about wearing them and you can comment as well. Ha!

Returning to my original thoughts, if you are reading this after 2:20 on May 30, there are eight days remaining in the year. The week to come could be the longest five-day week in our school year. For everyone. After that, we have Monday, and two days of finals and then it’s “Buh Bye and have a wonderful summer!” However, we’re not there yet, so we all need to hang in there a bit longer. If Mother Nature would make it look less inviting outside, our jobs could be a tad easier.

Next week, we’ll talk graduation. “It was the best of times…” Now that I have my glasses, however, I need to get to grading papers. “…It was the worst of times.” Ta ta.