From Mom to Me
As we age, we are treated differently, make no mistake about it, but until I felt it myself, it never rang true. In my professional life, from time to time I observed how people are marginalized – individuals with mental illness, immigrants, international students, people of color. Now, after years in college and ministerial circles, I’ve aged, and I sometimes feel marginalized because of my age. Someone might speak to me in a falsetto voice, pay no attention to my opinions, or worse still, not offer me a leadership role of some type. Sometimes I feel that young adults are patronizing. As I became more aware of ageism, at first I was perplexed, then angry, and finally curious. Is this a rite of passage for each generation?
Today when you told Dad and me of a conversation with your cousin, the gist of which is that gray hair raises barriers with younger colleagues and that the barriers sometimes lead to perceptions of less competence or inventiveness, I wondered does this cycle have to exist? How can we understand these new roles? Are we taking enough initiative? Are we now only acceptable as participants with less primary roles? Do young adults ever really know who “old people” are?
Yet, advantages and senior privileges accrue as I age – watching you and your family grow, becoming wiser, enjoying the flexibility to pursue interests, and so much more. And, of course, I have the knowledge and the perspective that aging is a lifetime process.
From Me to Mom
Interesting, I think, that we spoke about marginalization or ageism today. Perhaps you are right, that this is all about rites of passage for each generation. Sadly, I have memories as a young professional of feeling irritated with older people who, from my perspective, seemed to know so much and acted like their experience was more important than my viewpoint. And now, sadly, people do it to me.
I’ve noticed that people seem to perceive me differently than in the past. Friends and colleagues my age comment about this all of the time. Most are my age – in their 50’s like me, say that the change in the way they are perceived seemed to happen over-night. One of my friends tells a story about how she suddenly noticed in meetings that people rolled their eyes when she was speaking – yet she knew she did not dominate, ask silly questions, or make extraneous comments. Our society seems to self-segregate by age, interests, political views, and more, so we may know a lot less about each other compared to when you and Dad were growing up.
Yes, there are benefits to growing older. I perceive myself differently, have much less to prove, and feel less stressed by little things. All of these develop only after long experience with life. I also have one other bonus, as I am aging — I watch you and Dad live fully and richly as you age gracefully.