Why Old People Get So Mean and Angry

My recent return to Facebook and my quiet observation of friends who are around my age got me thinking about why so many old people get so mean and angry. To be clear, the people with whom I am connected are not mean or angry, but they have friends who are, so I get to see that dynamic in action.

Summer 1982: Rehearsal on the field, weeks before band camp, in prep for performance at the Indiana State Fair. Drumming and music has been a major cornerstone of my personal identity.

When we are young, our identities are all about things like school activities, music, movies, and things like this. The activities in which we engage typically center around fun, as well as some responsibility, and even hobbies or interests.

For me, my clear interest has always been music. This was partially natural, but partially a conscious effort on my part. Growing up, I saw that most men who worked with my father had their identities wrapped up in their jobs. They were factory workers.

When these factory workers lost their jobs, they also lost their identities. Shortly after that, they’d lose their own lives by their own hand. I wanted to avoid this pitfall, which I noticed in late grade school, so I began building my identity around music. Because my grandmother had always told me that music is something that can never be taken away.

Now that we’ve established our identities of origin, and how they revolve around things that are fun, or things we like, we move into the next phase. For some, it’s going to college, and for others it’s about going to work. Either way, our minds are shifting toward our work. When we immerse ourselves in our learning or activities, our identities begin to shift.

During this time, I maintained my identity as a musician by playing music. It helped greatly that I was a Percussion Arts major. During my second year, when I changed my major to T-Comm/Psych, I played bass in a punk rock band.

The first year in particular was super-immersive. When I wasn’t taking a marimba class, a string bass class, saxophone class, piano class, or rehearsing two hours per day, per instrument, I could be found in the dormitory lobby, playing piano.

When we all start working, inevitably most of us end up in some kind of relationship. This can result in marriage and children. So we drop even MORE of our own identity for the kids, on top of dropping some for work.

Circa 1997: Sitting at the drums, and introducing my son to the instrument. He’s doing his best Bruce Lee impression.

When I was working, I always had a band or a music project of some kind. And when I became a father, I worked even harder to maintain an identity that revolved around music, while adding the role of “father” to my identity.

And while I am doing this, more and more of my contemporaries are getting lost in their jobs and children, thereby completely losing their own identities.

The kids grow up, move out, and visit less often. The job may be coming to an end, thanks to retirement. Or you can simply be shown the door because you’re too old, which was the case for me.

During this time, I was very active drumming with bands and writing and recording music on a variety of instruments.

Circa mid-2013: Drumming in a band called “The Wrong Dots,” lead by former child actor Robbie Rist.

While I was able to maintain my identity by staying involved in music, this was not the case for most of my contemporaries. Some had nothing, or they put things away because they were “growing up.”

Whatever the case may be, many of these people lost themselves in their work and in raising a family. When all of that went away, they had to fill it with something.

But what? The easy choice for many is politics. Some fall into religion as well.

Politics and religion. These are the two LEAST interesting things about people. But they have to have something, right?

They seem to have a wide variety of interests. Some are into quilting. Another is into making new kinds of whisky. Some are all about their grandkids, and their children still live close by. A few are all about music. At least one of them still performs music on occasion, and is into a type of low-fi, outsider type of music that is so cool and interesting to me. And another one is retired and she’s all about golfing and having drinks with her friends in a very chill pace.

They have interests outside of politics and/or religion. These are my people!

These are interesting people.

All of my efforts hit a bit of a bump in the road. After my job came to an end in 2016, it seems that Noodle Muffin [a band that I’d been involved with since 2002] was utilizing me less and less on recordings and writing sessions. Things were getting too expensive in California and I saw no end to my lack of employment, so we packed up and moved to the middle of nowhere, Oregon.

Before moving, when things were slowing down with my music, I took private master class lead guitar lessons with Zoot Hor Rollo of Captain Beefheart for a full year. I also spent a few years amassing an incredible guitar collection. It was my way of keeping myself in the loop.

But 2020 did me in, to a degree. Thanks to the pandemic, I had to sell ALL of my guitars, save for an old acoustic and a $100 Cort that doesn’t really inspire me. Plus, I got wrapped up with a woman from my past, and that situation turned out to be toxic.

2021 found me getting out a bit and jamming with some guys on occasion, in a very loose situation. We only got together a handful of times, and nothing big came of it, but it kept me in the loop and in touch with music.

June 30, 2021: Jamming in a hot, sweaty, dirty garage, in a way that was intended.

As we get older, the times change, our situations change, and even our abilities change, I’ve decided it is best to expand upon my identity.

This is a wise move, considering the fact that I have no jamming situations or bands, I had to sell all of my inspirational guitars, I have two drum sets that I cannot play because there is nowhere to play them, and my body is beginning to betray me more than a little bit.

In this identity expansion, I’ve taken being a musician and extended it to the act of actively listening to music. I’ve also added writing to the fold, which must be obvious to anyone who has been reading for any amount of time.

Also added to this is gaming on the Commodore 64. I have been doing this for over ten years, and it’s a satisfying experience for me.

Since I’m not working, I have to find ways to deal with the time I have. On top of being responsible with chores and duties, improving my mental health and expanding my knowledge have been priorities.

And finally, I am experimenting with making videos. I won’t get into much detail, as I might make videos for my new channel, or I might be more general. I haven’t decided. But I did test my new set-up to ensure that the laptop, which replaces my dead desktop, can handle the work. I produced an 8-minute video that is nothing more than proof-of-concept, so nobody will see it and it’s not worth seeing anyway. This helped to confirm that the setup could do what I need for it to do.

May 14, 2022: Screen shot from a test video that I made yesterday. It was mostly a success. Now I have to work on my content, as well as adjusting a few minor issues. I don’t like that I cannot see my eyes in the video.

And now, I am back on Facebook, in search of contemporaries who have done the same. That is, those who have identities that revolve around things that are by far more interesting than politicis and/or religion.

Recognizing all of this and coming to my conclusions is giving me more insight into those “friends” from the past who are so ugly [on the inside], angry, mean, grumpy, intolerable, and unappealing. It helps me understand why we can no longer connect.

It explains the disappointment that I felt when I’d try to re-connect and all they could bring to the table was negativity.

But it also helps me understand why the concept of the old codger exists. Because people get lost, and I do not yet know if this just something that happens as people get older, or if it’s something that happens out of necessity in preparation for death.

The rabbit hole continues.

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Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

One thought on “Why Old People Get So Mean and Angry

  1. What you wrote tonight is thoroughly relevant. Once again, I get to enjoy a totally balanced analysis of a real issue. I’ll share something now. Today, for the first time in four years of retirement, I was starting blankly at the tv and feeling bored. Alarmed, I asked the wife how I’d passed the time all these years. Her reply was simple, that I’d been occupied 24/7 with repair work. She was spot on, of course. I only have two guitars to work on, and one of them just came in today. No wonder I was feeling bored! I’m going to take your advice and find something to occupy my time. And it won’t be watching tv…

    Liked by 1 person

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