There are fundamental changes. I'm not perfect, but I am much more patient now. I've learned to not see people as a means to an end (your entire purpose in my life used to be to do this work). Instead, now I value people, being around people, and benefiting from their existence and what they bring on this earth. I am genuinely interested in those aspects of people and this is something I've learned over time. Also, whereas I used to feel like I had to accept whatever attitude people presented to me, especially my African people, I've now learned that its perfectly ok for me to give you the exact energy you give me. At least that approach requires a lot less wasted energy on my part. I think I've come to understand how it feels to have people respect you because they see you as having wisdom. That feels good. Really good.
I'm different than a lot of people. To me, if someone says they will do something, that's your only real value and whether you do it or not determines the extent to which people need to take you seriously. That applies whether its making a call to check on someone who is in trouble or just the simple follow up of showing up because you said you would. I've learned over the years to spend a lot of time working on my discipline. Therefore, I'm not bragging when I say I can probably get a lot more done in a shorter period of time than most people. This is true because I've practiced doing so for a long time now. There was sacrifice. I never had a period where I clubbed and hung out much. Not judging you if you did. Just saying I spent most of my time working and preparing. I did that because developing those skills is what has always been important to me. And now, I'm starting to experience some of the benefit of that. People see the consistency and they respect you because of it. This takes time. Lots of time, but eventually, you do begin to see it happen. This is one of the joys of doing this work, but again, I've always been rather different. When I was in my early twenties, I didn't resist the teachings of my elders at that time. I welcomed it. The same way, I don't resist the reality that I'm growing older and people see me that way now. I welcome that. Of course, the flip side of that is the nature of revolutionary organizing in a capitalist society, especially the epicenter of capitalism, is that you live a life of marginalization. That means its few and far between that anyone will ever acknowledge your contributions, organizationally and individually, but another part of my joy is I believe I've come to accept that with grace. Revolutionaries aren't supposed to expect praise and I can tell you that I honestly don't think about it. It does happen and when it does, that's great, but I get much more excited when the work gets acknowledged. In fact, its frustrating to me when the work is confused with my personal accomplishments. And for anyone who would think this is just talk, if you are around me when I'm doing my work, you will know that most people have no idea of my personal accomplishments e.g. Masters Degree, three published books, etc. because I usually forget to mention those things, but everyone knows about my politics. That makes me proud because it demonstrates to me that I have matured and I like that. Its that peace of mind that powers me when people routinely and consistently dismiss and/or disrespect our work. And, it would be negligent to not include that a major aspect of that maturity is the ideological work that has occurred for decades now. That's another area where the personal benefits are showing themselves more and more each day because I better understand the forces of nature and how to interact with them. And having an improved understanding of that makes life roll much smoother.
I'm embracing my fifties in this work in what I believe to be an extremely healthy fashion. I'm as militant as I've ever been, but I now know how to channel that. I know how to focus my attention and keep building my work despite the temptations to change focus everyday that come as a regular aspect of capitalist dominated life. I have become a person people look to in order to learn how to channel and focus and I gladly try to share what I know and work with people. This is the work I have always wanted to do and I guess you can say that in a way, I'm happy because I now get to see all of that come full circle.
Another thing that has come with maturity is vision. I have a plan. In spite of all the many obstacles capitalism has thrown me, I've been able to save to the point where I'll have some money to work with when I'm eligible to retire in the few years. I've made the decision that when that day comes, I don't want to spend my twilight years in the U.S. I've always been a radical thinking person who has never had a problem putting my @ss where my mouth is. Consequently, I want to live out the last chapter of my life at home in Africa. I even have the town I want to live in picked out and with what I'll have to work with financially, doing so shouldn't pose any difficulty. I'm even starting to move in starting to establish arrangements to prepare for that day. This is all exciting to me. I realize that I've never fit into this money over people society. I've never been someone who needs new cars or houses. If those things make you happy, I'm happy for you, but those things mean nothing to me. I do value being with people who want to be with me and people in Africa make to clear to me that they want me there in ways I will never experience in this country. Plus, the quality of life e..g the time and space to build quality relationships is just what I adore after spending half a century in a country that either ignores people like me or treats me like I'm public enemy number one. Since I was a child, I've struggled here in those ways and every time I go to Africa I'm reminded that its there where I have always belonged. So, for any of you people who tell us to go to Africa, I'll accept any and all help you will provide to get me there. I love Africa! So, unless I die before hand, you best believe my days over here are numbered. And, when that transition takes place, I look forward to completing the process, meaning my work will be focused on writing and teaching and less on the front line, place my body on the line, work that I've prided myself in being committed to for three decades. So, I'm working on that transition, but until then, my body will continue to be out there and I'm going to put all that I have into this work here , in Africa, and until I die, and the thought of it all excites me. I have another book I'm working on and as soon as possible, that will be out there. When that happens, I'll start work on the next one. And, the older I get, the more militant I'll be and that makes me happy. Unfortunately, not enough people my age can honestly say they are living the life they want to live, but that's my reality. I'm far from perfect, but I'm trying. And, for however long I have left, I look forward to helping as many people as will listen learn how to embrace the positive things I've learned and avoid the negatives I've experienced.
So, sorry if you happen to encounter people my age doing this work, or not, who are bitter, impatient, and hard to be around. My goal is to try and never be that person. I think I'll do it without difficulty because the most important lesson I think I've ever learned is that it never has been, isn't now, and never will be about me primarily. I've learned that the minute you figure that piece out, the rest of it starts to fall right in line in the most positive and healthy way possible.