On the way in to work last Wednesday, it dawned on me that I might be over the hill. I was thinking about how things have sort of plateaued in my life – I’ve been driving to the same building for 15 years, teaching the same classes, working with the same colleagues. There are always new challenges every semester, but I’ve reached that stage in my teaching life where most new situations can be compared to something I’ve encountered before.
So I started wondering if the term really does apply to me. Being called “over the hill” could be an insult of sorts. I mean, once you’re over the hill, what is there to look forward to? It’s all downhill from there, or so the saying goes. And still, I think I might actually have arrived at over-the-hillness. It seems a good idea, then, to think some more about what this might mean.
The obvious synonym for over the hill is “old.” Think of those birthday cards that you see at the store – the front is black, with the words “over the hill” prominently written in white letters. When you open it up, the inside contains some cheesy joke about hair loss, hearing loss, bifocals/reading glasses, wrinkles, aches and pains, early dinner, etc.
This, then is one of the ways a person can be over the hill. And if I’m honest, some of these ways might even apply to me. I’ll let you consider which of them…feel free to add your guesses in the comments section of this post.
And yet, the hills in the world around us can be a blessing, can’t they? We climb them in hopes of getting a better view of the scenery, and maybe even a better sense of where exactly we are, and which direction might be the right one to head off in. To be over the hill, then, might mean that one has a better sense of themselves and the direction they’re headed and route they’ve chosen to follow. Perhaps being over the hill means that I know who I am and I know where I’m going? Better, at least, than I did when I was on the way up the hill.
Then there are hills in cycling. Usually, these are hills you WANT to get over, since there is often a very fun downhill stretch waiting on the other side, assuming you like riding downhill (not everyone does). Can we see life in the same way? I hope so, as it was a big lot of work to get up this hill I’ve been climbing in life and I’d be glad to look forward to a fun ride down the other side. Maybe the trick is to be a little less afraid and learn to like descending.
When I was a teenager, in the rare moments when I wasn’t feeling surly, I would often feel sorry for my Mom. She carried a lot in those years, and to put up with my brother and me (not to mention my Dad, who sometimes acted like just another kid) seemed more than a person should have to do. Especially someone as old as Mom, since to the teenage me, Mom was already well over the hill. How, I wondered, would I manage once I got to be so old and had teenagers of my own? Could I cope with their snide remarks and their not-very-subtle eye rolls and sighs? Now that I have my own teenagers (and am older than Mom was during my teenage years), I see that there really wasn’t all that much to dread. Sure, my teenage children regularly make snide remarks and sigh and roll their eyes. And I love them anyway. If this is what being over the hill means, then I can live with it. Because I get to point my wheels forward and fly down the other side to the next bit of road.