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  • Jerome Kocher

22. Birthdays

I don’t remember my first Birthday! No one does. But I do remember my 21st Birthday. I had just relocated from California to rural New York State to live and work in an intentional community called Camphill Village. It was my first Birthday there and the “first year of the rest of my life.” It triggered my creative imagination and the next best three years of my then young adult life. It also catapulted me to Europe after that, where I lived for four years, working and studying in Dornach, Switzerland at Theatre Arts School (all in German), followed by milking goats and cows and sheep in Emmental at the foothills of the Swiss Alps, and ending up working in a children’s home in Auchterarder, Scotland.

My next strongest Birthday memory is at 50! I was living near Rosarito in Baja, Mexico, when my three sisters traveled south to celebrate my half-century marker. They brought their own decorations and photo tributes to my life. It was an immense demonstration of love and support leaving me with a foreshadowing of my future, the gift of a leather briefcase. I had just changed careers once again to begin my vocation of teaching . . . in public high school. It was the “next beginning” of the rest of my life.

And now today, 21 years later, I am celebrating my 71st Birthday. Having just retired last June I am now living full time in Baja and have time to create a new world as well as confront any left-over shadows from the past. Like the Roman god Janus, looking both into the past and to the future (our month of January), I look forward to the “next beginning of the rest of my life.” I loved teaching. But now I love being the student and the teacher, to myself.

In Buddhism there is the principle of acknowledging our daily deaths, small endings, before the final one. In Birthdays, we celebrate new beginnings, the evolving of our lives. One does not happen without the other. The same face, looking both ways. Eyes wide open!

Happy Birthday!

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