Ch-Ch-Changes

Shelley Lieber • 5 min read

Losing the love of my life in a three-month span from diagnosis to death has made me painfully aware of the fragility of life. We don’t know how long we have to become who we came here to be. I’ve been inching toward it for years, but I feel I’m running out of time. It’s now or never, baby.

Ch-Ch-Changes

Remember when you gleefully sang along with Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-changin’? That was 1964.

Fast forward to 2015 and David Bowie made us realize that now We are the Older Generation.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes
Ooh, lookout you rock ‘n’ rollers
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me,
but I can’t trace time.

Forty-five years ago, at age 25 on my birthday, I quit my job and got a perm. The former was a good decision, the latter…not so much.

The perm took about six months to grow out. I had been at the job I quit for about a year. Still, at 25, we feel there’s still a lot of life left to live, so it was all good.

And, indeed, my new job as an assistant editor at Holt, Rinehart & Winston turned out to be the one of the best life changes I ever made. My career in publishing has served me well, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Sometimes we choose them, sometimes life foists them upon us.

One of the reasons Joe and I took to the road in 2017 was because we lost several dear friends to illness in a very short time. Our “someday” dream of traveling moved to the front burner and our new motto became, “If not now, when?”

Bucking conventional advice, we didn't have a grand plan or even much capital to support a Plan B. But once the decision was made, the Universe conspired to assist us with people and events that appeared when needed, and we traveled across and around this country several times.

Only Covid stopped our traveling, and only cancer stopped Joe. Yet, I have three solid years of photos and memories of our glorious adventures, and I don’t have any regrets. Nor did Joe, who expressed that exact sentiment only days before his transition.

As young Baby Boomers, we made public demonstration of our dissatisfaction with the status quo. In 1970, I stood on the College Green at Ohio University, removed my bra, and tossed it into a blazing bonfire. I also stopped shaving my legs and underarms.

Of course, these were symbolic gestures of defiance and nonconformity.  I eventually donned a bra again and shaved. But my support of freedom of speech and women’s rights never wavered nor dimmed.

Today, I made another statement: I cancelled my subscription to The New York Times.

Although not as dramatic nor as public as bra burning, it held the same significance to me. I’ve been a NYT reader since I was a girl and a subscriber since I moved back to New York City for my first job after college. That’s a long time.

I’ve been becoming more and more dissatisfied with the paper: sloppy reporting, slanted editorial viewpoints, sometimes childish writing (appearing to be written with the insight more typical of high school interns than seasoned reporters), and increasing subscription costs with ridiculous add-on charges for sections that are free (I assume) with subscription to the print edition.

For example, the Cooking section is extra. You can read the article with the digital subscription, but if you want the recipe…pay up. Do they redact the recipe copy in the print edition if you don’t pay extra, or just cut that section out of your paper??

Not being much of a cook, I don’t care about the recipes, and free ones abound on the internet. But I do enjoy the word games, and those, too, come at an additional price. My answer to that is to beat the game before I get shut out for not subscribing to this section. Just as challenging for me.

Since I don’t cook and made my own rules for the beating the word games, why did I cancel?

The New York Times has taken a hardline stance for vaccines. I can deal with that because I believe in freedom of expression. What pushed me over the line is the attempt on the part of The Times to influence and control those very personal decisions for me.

I’ve stomached article after article of their blatant disregard for my personal freedom to choose. Then recently I saw an article with suggestions of what to say to a friend or loved one who professed hesitation about the Covid vaccine. Really? It’s not my business, nor yours, NYT, to question people’s personal decisions for their bodies. Not about vaccinations, not about abortion, or anything else.

When it came down to a newspaper trying to put words in my mouth about how to think and what to say on the subject, that crossed the line for me. So, no thank you. I won’t be repeating your words. I respect people’s right to choose for themselves without my or anyone else’s interference.

Yet, cancellation of my subscription is just another symbolic gesture, similar to bra burning.

What I see in The New York Times is a mirror of what I see in a large portion of our culture that I feel no longer represents me. I won't abide tolerating the war news, political divisiveness, and rhetoric on climate change, Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, gun control, and every other issue that needs to be addressed yet is only given lip service with no substantial action.

For some time now, I’ve been tiptoeing a fine line between conventional and unconventional methods of just about everything. Don’t rock the boat; don’t ask for trouble (i.e., comments from trolls). Don’t be too “out there.”

Losing the love of my life in a three-month span from diagnosis to death has made me painfully aware of the fragility of life. We don’t know how long we have to become who we came here to be. Some of us answer that call early in life, some of us, never. I’ve been inching toward it for years, but I now I feel I’m running out of time. It’s now or never, baby.

Quitting The New York Times is merely the first symbolic step of renouncing my allegiance to an authoritative, patriarchal society. I’m not following their rules anymore, nor taking part in a society where I have to test the waters before I feel safe expressing my thoughts.

Since as far as I know, Shangri-La is not on the destination list of any airline, cruise, or tour company, I’ll have to create my own community and way to live in this world.

I have no idea how I'll do that. But I do have to answer the call of my soul, which is no longer agreeing to navigate a system that rejects who I am. I expect there will be many ups and downs.

So as the iconic Bette Davis informed her guests in All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

For me, friends, I’d say it’s going to be a long, bumpy ride, and I am deliriously happy to be [metaphorically] “on the road again.”

There's room on the bus for as many travelers as want to come. Will you join me?


Image:  On the Road Again ©Gemignani. Text ©Shelley Lieber.

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