I’m Old, Dammit! Not Dead!
A few months ago, I received an email from a subscriber and it got me thinking…
This lovely lady said something that’s been tickling away at the back of my mind for some time, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to explore it a bit. Here’s what she said:
“Beverley, I love your website. It feels warm and soothing, like slipping into a warm bath. Ahhhhhhh…
“It’s so nice to feel appreciated as a senior. As I scrolled through your blog posts I said to myself, ‘when seniors feel isolated, this is a good place to visit because it honors our life experience.'”
“Honours our life experience…”
Yeah, she gets it. That’s exactly what I had in mind when I started doing this whole Scribblers Guild thing. I wanted to create a place for senior writers that explores the advantages of aging.
When we’re young and vital, we tend to think it will go on forever: physical ability, mental acuity, libido, ambition, drive, enthusiasm. But as we age, we begin to realize our limitations.
Things hurt now that never hurt before. And, you remember that actor, you know the one — his name is right on the tip of my tongue — I’ll get it, but probably not until three a.m., when I have to get up for a pee. I don’t fit my “nice” clothes anymore and high heels are a thing of the past. I can’t remember if I took my meds this morning and kids who should be in school open doors for me and call me “Ma’am”. How dare they, miserable little upstarts!
I hate being marginalized!
A couple of years ago, I attended a live internet marketing event where I was ignored and dismissed, merely because, unlike the majority of the attendees, I wasn’t young, hip and internet-savvy.
And that just pissed me off. The cost of my hotel and travel was just as much as theirs, my interest in learning the material was just as keen, and I was just as determined to make a success of the enterprise as everyone else there, but because I’m a “lady of a certain age”, with wrinkles and saggy boobs, the young presenter I attempted to speak with, (who, by the way, had billed himself as the handsomest speaker at the event, which should have clued me in), turned his back on me so he could talk to someone his own age.
I bet if I’d been forty years younger, that would never have happened. I used to be HOT! But evidently the “senior me” was irrelevant, beneath notice, pre-judged as no longer worthy by reason of age. Let me tell you, it’s given me a whole new insight into the frustrations of other minority and marginalized sectors of society — one of the advantages of age, I suppose — we have a lifetime of insight and introspection to draw upon.
But back to my point…
How many seniors run into this kind of prejudice every day? We encounter it with our kids, who think we should give up everything we’ve worked hard for all our lives to go live in a retirement home, ‘cause it’ll be so much easier for them to forget about us there, only visiting when it’s convenient for them.
Or our opinions are dismissed as unrealistic and outdated, undervalued because we’re not cute and sexy any more, or we can’t recall the exact word we want to use in the middle of a discussion. We’re no longer physically threatening, so that somehow makes us less valuable as contributing members of society.
But we do have a great deal to teach the generations who follow us. In our lifetime, there’s been more advancement in the arts, in science, medicine and technology, in education and every other field of human endeavour than in any other generation in history and it’s critical that we share our wisdom before we’re gone.
When I was young, a common phrase was “Never trust anyone over thirty”. I look back now, and I pity the younger me. The arrogant puppy I was back then had no empathy. I never thought about how my attitude hurt those around me, and I never considered just how narrow-minded I was. It took many years of being buffeted by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” for me to gain some small measure of empathy, wisdom and understanding, and now that I have, I believe that knowledge is worth sharing.
Even though individual words may occasionally escape us, (at least until our 3:00 a.m. pee break,) seniors have life experience which a younger person can’t bring to the table. They don’t have the experience to explore and iterate certain abstract ideas as effectively, because they don’t possess the sheer number of neural connections that we all accumulate over our lives, and they haven’t accumulated the psychological connections that make sense of the course of a life. It’s only through hindsight that we can even see the connections that give us clearer perspectives, correct conclusions and inspired insights and epiphanies.
My students ask me all the time, why would anyone want to read their memoirs. What’s important about their lives? Why should they put all that effort into writing a book about their life story, when their life was so ordinary?
It’s because the wisdom you have to share isn’t just about what you did, who you met, the events that happened. Oh no…it’s about so much more than that.
It’s about the experiences that led to your becoming the person you are. It’s about knitting together the thousands of incidents, happenstances, conclusions and threads that have created your beliefs, your values and your opinions. And, irrespective of your age, your appearance and your sexual desirability, it’s about revealing to your readers, exactly who you are as a person. What you think and why you think that way.
You may never know who ends up reading your words. Could be your kids, grandkids, or several generations down the line. Your words could become original source material for the greatest novel of the age a hundred years from now. But none of that matters. It’s a privilege and a duty for us to pass on our skills and knowledge, so that future generations can learn from our mistakes and our successes. And for them to gain that invaluable resource, we must write it down!
Find your voice!
Push back against the tide of prejudice and ageism. Let the world know the real you. Use the events of your life to illustrate what you think, what’s important to you and what you believe. Write your memoirs and show them who you really are. While you still can.
P.S.: If you enjoyed my
rant article, please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts. I promise, I’ll reply.
Bev, This is really great. Your passion for us older folks is really something. I know I hide my age the best I can but you helped me realize that a) I won’t always be able to and b) I don’t need to. I look forward to reading more of your good scribblings.
Thanks, Steve. So many people make their lives harder by desperately trying stay young and sexy, but “elderly” and “sexy” are a biological oxymoron and mutually exclusive, though there’s nothing saying we can’t still be attractive.
Aging is inevitable. When we surrender to that inevitability, it doesn’t mean giving up. It means accepting change and embracing the benefits of age. We’ve worked hard at becoming the individuals we are and have earned the right to have opinions which differ from others’, the right to be the proverbial square peg.