It wasn’t all that long ago that I used to always be THE youngest person in the office. I was “the kid,” as they’d say.
My change from this status to one of being old happened virtually overnight. I would notice it when I’d talk about things, like past work experiences, and the person I was talking to would have no idea about some of the details.
What’s DisplayWrite/36? I’ve never heard of THAT before.
At some point, I had to accept that I am old.
On April 13, 2016, my age was driven home when LinkedIn decided to fire everyone at the lynda.com HQ in Calabasas, CA, who was under 45 and NOT in a management role.
Since then, I have not been able to find substantial work, and have relied heavily on the support of others in order to survive. Being forced to live this way can rot a man’s brain, not to mention his self-esteem.
Last night, I was watching Jimmy Snow on YouTube. He is a guy who started out as a YouTube Atheist content creator, and morphed it into something more. He’s 31 years old, so he’s in the Millennial category.
At one point in the video, he lamented getting older, as he acknowledged how American society treats [and abuses] older people in our society.
He should be VERY concerned about this. I was deemed “old” by the time I was 50. He will be labeled as such before he is 35 years old.
It’s as if the rest of the world is mimicking the music industry, and how music executives were worried that Avril Lavigne was becoming “long in the tooth” because she was going to turn 17 years of age.
Before I was let go from LinkedIn, I was able to acknowledge the culture around me. There was a game room, with an XBOX and ping pong table. There was a cabinet full of Manga anime videos that could be borrowed. There are “puzzle stations” at various locations throughout the office, so you can just stop and work on a puzzle for a while if you want.
And they even had a monthly day of “mandatory fun,” which they un-creatively called “InDay.” This was where you went out and “had fun” with your co-workers while bonding with them.
As an Autistic adult, I didn’t do much bonding on those days. Also, I saw those days as a trap. Here’s how the trap works.
Everyone has work that is always piling up. Nobody ever has a clean desk when InDay hits.
If you GO with everyone for InDay, then your manager can berate you for going on InDay when you probably should have stayed at your desk.
Conversely, if you DO NOT go with everyone for InDay, then you will be labeled “Not a team player,” and you will be punished.
When Jimmy Show lamented how old people are treated in society, I had to perk up and agree.
I’ve talked with many adults in my family, who are from the generation before me, and they ALL consistently admit that they felt that old people were a waste of time who needed to be pushed aside and shoved beneath the rug.
This got me thinking about how I treated older people throughout my life.
My favorite “old person” of all time was my grandmother. I used to say that the stork dropped me off at the wrong house. It wasn’t until my 2017 Autism diagnosis that I learned WHY I felt this way.
It was because she talked with me like a human being and listened to me as well. No other adult who was directly involved in my life ever did that with me as a kid.
We would often times sit at the kitchen table and talk about ANYTHING and everything. Sex, rock music, politics, social attitudes. Anything and everything I wanted to talk about, I did it there.
My mother one time picked me up from my grandmother’s house, and she heard us going at it before we wrapped up. She asked me, “Why do you enjoy antagonizing your grandmother so much?”
And yes, I knew what “antagonizing” meant when I was 8 years old.
I replied, “We’re not fighting. We’re having fun.”
When I was 11 years old, I went to my friend’s house about a block away. He wasn’t home. As I walked out, I saw an old lady sitting on the porch. Her name was Barb Yeryar. As it turns out, her name was a big name in town. But I did not know this.
Wanting something to do outside, I walked over and sat with Barb. She told me stories about the poetry that she’d had published, and even brought out a few books. She also brought out a magazine that showed a Maytag commercial, featuring a letter that she wrote to “the lonely Maytag repairman.”
Later, Barb invited me and other kids who lived in the immediate area to swim in her pool. She had a HUGE indoor pool where one would expect a 3-car garage. It was like a mini-Olympic pool of sorts that got up to 10 feet deep, and was an IN-GROUND cement pool.
She wasn’t messing around with her pool.
After we got out to dry, she came over and said, “When your parents used to come over here to swim, I would give them a quarter so they could go to Owen’s to get a snack.”
Owen’s was a gas station in town that was also a convenience store.
Barb continued, “Today, a quarter will not do!” And then she handed each of us a silver dollar.
Barb Yeryar definitely had an impact on my life.
I would sit with my friend’s mom, Stephanie, and sit at the table to talk with her, just as I would do with my grandmother.
My neighbor, Joan, would oftentimes be alone after school, so I’d go by there and sit at her kitchen table as well. She always had lots and lots of dirty jokes to tell. Like Stephanie, she wasn’t really “old” in social terms. She was just old to anyone who was a kid.
Still, I was the only kid who would hang with these super-old people. At least, they were super-old to me.
I also hung out with my health teacher named Dave. He beat my uncle in a race in 1969, to win the county.
He was not only my health teacher, but he was also my Cross Country coat. He was rougher on me when he learned that he had beat my uncle in a race. But he did it in a caring way.
He also was my teacher in Sex Ed, as well as my driving instructor.
I would sometimes go to his house and we would play guitars on the porch.
No other kid was doing what I was doing.
When I ask myself if I am ageist, or engaging in ageism, the answer is a resounding NO! And that goes in BOTH directions. I watch content creators on YouTube who are my son’s age, if not slightly younger. Some of them are surprisingly savvy with regard to political or philosophical concerns.
I don’t dismiss or disregard someone because they’re older than me, OR younger than me. It’s about the person, not the age.
But, to those who are all about age, and who believe that old people should be swept under the rug and ignored, I have a message for them. This message is on top of the obvious message above, which is that there is SO MUCH to be learned from those who have had more life experience.
If you are lucky, then you will get to spend 5-10 years being the young person in the office. But after that, if you are lucky, you will get to spend at least half a century being old.
This is why people need to get over ageism, and focus more on the person and what they have to bring to the table. In my case, to be precise, it’s the kitchen table, where all the really good talking happens.
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