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[personal profile] silveradept requested: around the end of the month: Things ending, things beginning. And I'm a couple of days behind on posts which means I'm writing this right at the end of the month, not just around it. And, well, I've just come back from [personal profile] blue_mai's mother's funeral, having started 2014 with joining [personal profile] lethargic_man at part of the shiva (memorial prayers in the week after a funeral) for his mother. So my head is very much in lives ending, not just things in general. Which means this post is working out a little melancholy, and I'm sorry this in the slot where I meant to answer [personal profile] zhelana's much more positive prompt for my favorite moment of the month. Might manage that before the day, the month and the year roll over into the new, we'll see.

Being 36 feels a little bit Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, somehow, though I think average life expectancy for healthy thirty year olds in rich countries is rather longer than the Biblical three score and ten. In practical terms it means it's no longer surprising for my peers to be burying parents. There's all these endings of relationships that have been central to many of our lives up to now, and beginnings of taking on the reins of being the top generation of our families, especially as still-surviving parents are increasingly frail.

I asked Mum to come with me to the funeral, because she's good at funerals, she knows the right thing to say to friends and relatives of the deceased we hadn't met. But her being good at funerals is sort of an awful thing, and I'm thinking, partly how glad I am that I still have my mother to ask for support with this kind of thing, but also partly that I expect to build up a similar bank of experience over the coming years and decades. The first person whose body Mum prepared when she started volunteering with the religious group who perform that ceremony was more or less her age.

And that very nearly all the people I grew up thinking of as the older generation of my communities are gone. I heard today of the death of someone I was fond of a few years ago but had lost touch with when she moved away from Cambridge, and thought, so young! but actually given she remembers Kristallnacht she can't have been much under 80. (And really, the whole generation who came over as refugees from Europe in the 30s and 40s, who personally lived through those horrors, are either very elderly or dead, and I haven't quite adjusted my mental calendar to that reality.)

The obvious thing to do is therefore to talk about beginnings of lives too. Now I'm in my mid-thirties, most of my friends who want to have children (I think about three quarters of them, given the choice) are getting on with doing so. I sort of imagined this, when I was younger, that I would start to stick out more within my social group as someone without kids of my own. Actually it's not really like that, there are lots of people whose lives haven't really changed as much as I imaginegd now they've become parents, or at least not to the point where they no longer want to socialize with childfree people. (At my birthday party a guest who didn't know me very well took some friends' children for mine, and it was just an endearing mistake and not the cause of several days of panic, which may mean I'm finally getting better at this.) And lots of people who want children but don't have them, because of fertility problems or just not being in the right relationship, the right life situation, and we're old enough now that people are worrying that if it doesn't happen soon it might never happen. So it's not that I've never before supported friends dealing with either parenting or mourning the vanishing opportunity, but that lately this is a common theme rather than an exception.

What else? At work the cohort of medical students that includes a cluster I happened to get on well with are completing their final exams and starting to apply for jobs as actual doctors. I am really heartened that a few of them contacted me for references and careers advice, including one who is really brilliant but comes from enough of a non-trad background that she didn't have the confidence to apply for a highly competitive post, and I convinced her she could. I mean, she takes 99.9% of the credit for being generally awesome, but I am proud of being in the right place at the right time to get her to believe she is. So they're ending their education and starting their careers; I am looking forward to the 2015 graduation, it's going to be people I'm fond of.

My older PhD student is starting to think about finishing her thesis and maybe even planning her career beyond that; we've got a lot to cover in her third year to get her to the right level, but it's exciting. And my new PhD student who started in September is settling in, almost getting to the point of being useful in the lab more than she's a liability. Again, nicely generational, having that sort of gap between my students. (I try to bite my tongue from using sibling metaphors for them, because that implies I'm their parent, which I'm really not, but it's still a little like that.)

The university as a whole came out fairly well, especially for a small institution, in the latest round of government-mandated metrics and targets which has been eating everybody's life for the past couple of years. We went to a meeting on the last day of term and literally they announced, don't worry, we're not getting sacked, something we hadn't known for sure a day before. Bloody bloody education politics, I can't even, but that's a lot less bad than it might have been. Several senior management people put in post primarily to deal with the evil REF are moving on, and I have some hope that we'll have at least a few years to get on with research and perhaps have some real leadership that isn't geared towards ticking the boxes for the assessors.

And in my personal life I find myself at the beginning of something which is too early to be comfortable talking about publicly, but I am ending the year brimming with joyful hope.

Not entirely on topic, but [livejournal.com profile] siderea has written an absolutely brilliant and inspiring reflection for the end of a year which has included so much awfulness, notably police forces in America going rogue and killing African-American children and young men. I strongly recommend: Long Night (Staying Woke).
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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