This month I will be 48 years old. That’s an impossible and unbelievable sentence to write. Aging comes with baggage: cultural implications and physical consequences. I’m decaying and disappearing according to contemporary understandings. Even while refuting this popular narrative, I do feel that I’m shifting into another phase and not without panic.

This week I heard about the untimely death of my beloved and admired year 10 English teacher. She was inspiring and individual and dynamic. With her we studied Shakespeare for the first time and it was fresh and engaging and relevant. We were captured by the passion of Romeo for Juliet, and by the drama and language of the Bard as we stood on the desks and declaimed. Our charismatic teacher wasn’t so much older than ourselves. When I left school I followed her career and then ran into her in the supermarket: she had partnered and had a child, she had changed job and her career was moving forward. She would eventually be a leading Headmistress responsible for the successful amalgamation of two wonderful schools.

When I heard of her death I was sad for her and for her family. I was also sad for me, because too late I realised that I wanted to follow her example into teaching and curriculum. This is my other life: the one I didn’t have but regret.

This week also, while listening to Israeli author Etgar Keret speak, I was struck by something he said about his father. His father believed that everyone in the world is a genius at something: we just need to recognise our super power. Efraim Keret’s genius was for sleeping. He was able to survive the Holocaust sleeping in a hole in the ground underneath the farm of a righteous Christian. Each time he woke up he would say to his own father, “has the War ended yet?” and when he was told that it was not, he would roll over and go back to sleep. This way he lived in hibernation until the War actually was over and it was safe to climb out of his hole.

This notion of ordinary genius captured me. I realised too late that my super power was school teaching and leadership. Rather than be deflated, however, this epiphany has given me energy and focus. It motivates me to help others find their own genius before it is too late for them. Being on the Project Deborah Board is one of the important ways that I’m currently doing this. Through this program I hope to inspire other women to discover what energises them and to access it.

In the first Project Deborah session for 2016 last week the session facilitator, the wonderful Susi Finkelstein, asked participants to define their aspirations in a sentence. She asked them to capture the essence of themselves and their current desires in a crisp and direct single statement. I sat in that session and struggled to articulate my own sentence.

The various reflections of the week have lead me to understand that my sentence and my superpowers come from my enthusiasm for supporting others to find their purpose and their own particular genius. Project Deborah is a marvellous vehicle for women to get support, expand our learning, interrogate our thinking, challenge ourselves and support one another.

Participating in Project Deborah has enabled me to find my sentence. Now as a Board member I hope to support others through this process. My aspiration is to help others find their genius.

Having opportunities to reflect during the Project Deborah program in 2014, I now have the insight that my life is not yet over and I have a new direction. With the help of my High School English teacher, Etgar Keret’s Dad, Susi Finkelstein and Project Deborah, I have formulated a sentence for this new phase into which I am shifting. I want to support others to recognise their own superpowers. So happy birthday to me. I hear that 48 is the new 30.

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Deborah Rechter
Deborah Rechter is an editor at JWOW

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