The Third Thirty: A Community Oral History Project
I truly, truly do believe in trying to constantly evaluate who you are and how you are, and my basic philosophy has always been love. If you have love in your life, in your family, and in your companions you have the most important thing in learning to live. And the thing of it is, we cannot know who we are, except when we are interacting with another-human-being.
I first met Ann Lindquist when I was working as a caregiver through The Care Connection and was hired by she and her husband, Ken, to help out around their house. I have long admired Ann’s compassionate nature, good humor and astounding love of learning and reading. She has become a dear friend and a true inspiration. -Carla Lindquist, Oral Historian
I wanted so badly before I started school to learn to read. And I would think to myself, how am I going to do this? And then of course I started school and I learned to read and from then on I was always reading. I would get off the bus and I open my book and read it on the way up the street to my house. So reading was always just the most important thing in my life, then, and has always been the most important.
I was very fortunate in that my husband was a very kind, intelligent man. And he encouraged me during my early years to start attending college in the evening, and I ended up getting my bachelor’s degree in literature and becoming a teacher. I became a teacher of English, 9 through 12, at a regional high school in the northwestern part of Massachusetts. I taught from 1970 to 1987. And I always wanted in my teaching to help my students understand the beauty and the value of literature - all that they could draw from it in understanding their own lives. And I also wanted them to constantly be questioning who and what and where they were. This was always an important part of my life. I’ve lived for 91 years but I’ve had to go back and learn about those years by reading histories of various decades. So I feel I have a pretty good understanding of what happened during my years of living, and I’ve tried to always, understand and adapt to changing times. Not just foolishly follow fads and fashions, but then to come to my own understanding of the best way to live my life at that point.
So living is a very complex situation.
I was always asking my students to comprehend living as a large thing, that they were part of a large society and they needed to understand not only what it was to be an individual in that society, but also what it was to be a part of that society.
In literature you’re constantly discovering these great minds writing about the great awakenings and understandings. And I’m going to give one example, alright? He’s James Joyce, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” His main character, Stephen, is sitting in a classroom one day and he begins to place himself first in the classroom, then in the city, then in the world, and, finally, in the universe. And I thought that was so interesting that Joyce moved the reader from just being a single I to an imposed I in the vast universe. So Joyce was - as so many authors - helping you to understand the complexity of life, and to begin to understand it, and explore on your own through that novel. And that’s what I wanted to get over to my students the most, is how much truth there is in good literature, fine literature and it will always, always be that help to them.
So, in my years after I retired, I did spend a lot of time reading history and trying to understand the development of humanity through the ages and also probably my own development that way too. So I guess I can’t stress enough the need for a person to know thyself, as Socrates said. I truly, truly do believe in trying to constantly evaluate who you are and how you are, and my basic philosophy has always been love. If you have love in your life, in your family, and in your companions you have the most important thing in learning to live. And the thing of it is, we cannot know who we are, except when we are interacting with another-human-being.
Which brings me to my little old lady nonsense. And that is that (laughs) human beings are now spending so much time on their computers (devices). And they are missing out on really, really getting to know - by human interaction - the people in their family, their friends, their neighbors, everyone that makes up their community. And the only way we’ll ever, ever learn who these people are and who your family is and so forth, is by interacting with them and really thinking about your interactions and how you may be of help to someone, how you may love someone. Just the act of loving is the most concrete human act in the world. If we could only all of us just understand that, and use that as our basis of being, it would be just wonderful.
I have loved living as long as I have. I really am sooo happy that I’ve had my 91 years of experience. And I’m also so happy that the circumstances of my life have allowed me to understand and learn as much as I’ve learned and be able to end up at 91 living a productive life still. And to know that I feel I have accomplished good in this life. I feel about human beings, they have this infinite capacity for goodness and for love. And I am just betting that that is what is going to finally be the deciding factor for humanity, as long as they stop destroying the world. Oh dear, I had to add that didn’t I? [laughter]