Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stepping Outside Your Age Zone

When I was in my early twenties, I always felt I had something to prove.  Too often I thought everyone older than me was looking down their noses at me, questioning what I could possibly bring to the table.  Left to my own devices, most of my friends were within my age range.  I'm sure my bristly desire to prove myself was annoying.

Now I'm in my late forties, and I see the generation gap with a different light.  I want my experience recognized.  I want to share what I've learned with others.  When I run into the age gap via movie references, technology or other experiences, I pull up short, nonplussed by this unexpected disconnect.  I have an odd need to point the disconnect out to others when it happens.  I suspect this is annoying, too.

However, I'm developing a real appreciation for the value of connecting with people of different ages and experience levels.  After all, every one of us has the potential to experience life at a variety of ages.  There is a common foundation there.

A younger person's perspective actually heightens the flavor of my own youthful experiences.  It gives me new insight into that version of myself, and reminds me of things I don't want to lose.  It's healthy for my mind and emotions, whether that perspective is an 8 year old or a 28 year old or something in between.  The effort to understand that person's viewpoint and learn from them provides an excellent antidote to encroaching codgerdom and judgmental stereotyping.

On the other hand, my relationships with folks older than me have taken on a new kind of poignance and significance, as the distance between myself and them shrinks.  The outer container of face and body loses some of its relevance.  I'm more keenly aware of the existence of an entire lifetime of memories inside that person.

Beyond the one-sided benefits, there is a certain positive, engaging creative chemistry born from cross-age interactions of all sorts.  When the generational walls come down and we actually connect on some other common ground (literature, writing, favorite activities, music, family), the best of every contributing age seasons the soup that is our shared humanity.

We humans tend to hang with people our own age.  It's hard to understand people who are at a different stage of life.  But there's much to be gained when you step outside your age zone.  

No comments:

Post a Comment