As I keep moving through the span of my life (more and more with the velocity of a hurtling star, it seems), I have been thinking about where I am, what I have to do, and why I need to do it. Although dwelling on such things can lead to being maudlin, it still helps once in a while to take stock of one's advantages and disadvantages.
One trait that can be seen as a disadvantage is being older (i.e. over 30, in my case 17 years past that). Being older, especially in a society that worships youth, can frankly be intimidating. Younger people seem faster, brighter, and don't have the dings, dents and flabby/saggy skin that an older person does.
A younger person to an older person is a creature full of life, hope, and beauty. Seeing a young person gives me pause. On the one hand, I'm a bit jealous, seeing their lives all before them, their great potential. On the other hand, I really hope they break the mold succeed. I really hope that they don't fall into the pitfalls of the previous generations quite as much. I hope they remain helpful and hopeful, and not succumb to greed and jadedness. That they make the world better for their sons and daughters.
So where does it leave the older gently used (or not so gently used) folks left in the wake of the youthful horde? How can us crotchety folks possibly hope to compete?
Take heart, there is hope! I will tell you why!
Older people have experience in life.
One of the things about being older is we've seen and heard things younger people may not have yet. We know the spirit of the times from a generation or two ago. We can do imitations of older characters and roles more easily because actually saw them. And some people may not know of these characters, and if they do know, what was once hack is now classic VO gold, baby.
Older people know how precious time is.
That old saying "Youth is wasted on the young" does hold some truth to it. Many people that are younger don't quite understand the fragility and preciousness of life. They may not have seen loved one's die yet, and if they do, it's usually older people, not your friends and siblings, and usually not in the number that people who watch the years pass by.
This can spur an older person with much more focus. An older person may know how to better manage their time, because they're had to wrestle with balancing work, love and homelife. In the end an older person understands more about their mortality. This is morbid, but a truism.
Older people understand true gifts of work and friendship.
As we move about this planet through our lives, many of us gain the wisdom to know that some things come very rarely, or only once. Someone with less time on the planet may not understand that. An older person can thus be more daring because when they see an opportunity, they may be more prone to grab for it. I had a bit of this issue when I was younger. I didn't understand personal or professional opportunities like I do now.
I understand increasingly that life, both on a personal and professional level is about forming and building relationships. It's about establishing bonds of trust and friendship that will carry you (and the people you live or work with) for a sustained time, and to the next level.
Older people have been young; they understand.
Being older, we can play younger. They was a time that we were younger. and we remember how a younger person feels, a bundle of raw emotions, energy, pride and insecurities about their place in the world. A young person brazenly tries to plow through with unbridled ambition in their attempts to shape rule the next world.
We've also been around long enough to see how people our age have or are becoming, including ourselves. We've watched our parents succumb to age and frailty. We've known all these things. These true human experiences shapes us, adds nuance to us. If we are aware, we can add value to people younger than us by being mentors. And if we pay attention, younger people can pull us out, lend us their enthusiasm to our work.
I do want to note that this is a truism, but not absolute. Some people who are young have seen and lived through experiences by the time they are 20 that most people haven't seen. Some people it is true are "old souls" wandering around in their tight skinned shells until their bodies catch up with them. Most of us are in-between.
But in the final analysis, I still feel that for some people (me included), coming into a career choice later in life can provide some advantages over attempting it beforehand. So listen on all you young whippersnappers.
All you older folks, just give a bit of a wise smile at the younger peeps, like you know something (even if you don't).