Thank you, thank you, thank you Sarah Houghton aka Librarian in Black. I have been struggling for the past several days trying to decide what I wanted to blog about or if there was anything worth blogging about. And then, just now, I saw Andy Woodworth retweet your most recent post, Reflections on Ageism. And I was saved from my writer’s block because this post is screaming to be vetted, in a good way. And if you’re reading this and you have no idea what post I’m talking about (because you’re not a librarian) then, please, read on anyway, because this applies to everyone.
Ironically, I could help you (Librarian in Black) realize your worst fears and leave a comment that begins with “but you’re only 34, you’re still a baby yourself” since I am 50…however, that is so far beyond the point that such a comment would serve no purpose. The point being that age is only relevant in that you can only view your younger self by means of your older self and that gives you an unfair vantage point. Let me explain.
It is so true that while I can remember what my 20-year-old or 30-year-old self was thinking and why, I can no longer think as a 20-something or a 30-something or a 40-something. I think as a 50-year-old with all that entails. But what is equally true and never really considered is that a 20-something cannot possibly even attempt to think as a 30- or 40- or 50-year old. And that is exactly why we need all ages at the table. Just because I’m 50 and have lived longer and (hopefully) learned more doesn’t mean that my contributions are necessarily more valuable (or less valuable). It just means that my contributions are a product of my progression through the different phases of my life and how that progression has shaped my world view and my perspective. I can’t bring to the table the same thing as a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old, whose world view and perspective have not yet been shaped to the same degree or by the same circumstance. And they can’t bring my offering to the table, either.
We need all ages and all voices in order to achieve a balance between the young “I can take on the world because I know so little of it” view and the older “You can take on the world, but you can’t necessarily change it just because you think you can” view. Both are valuable and needed and both feed off each other. One should not be taken more seriously than the other. They are different but not better or worse than each other. And let’s face it: We all know a 20-something who reflects the heart and soul of an aged person worn down by life, just as we all know senior citizens that think like they have nothing to lose.
Age is relative. Age is a state of mind. Age isn’t all that important unless you’re talking about wine or cheese. Age simply gives you a vantage point.
The next time you’re tempted to discount the opinion of a person older or younger than yourself think about this: You were once that age, or you will one day be that age. Do you want everything you say or think or believe to be discounted because of a number? Old, young, or in between, we all have something to say. What might happen if we all actually listened as if there were no numbers assigned to us when we take our place at the table?