Today I get to talk about my feelings on ageism. It comes at kind of an interesting time, as more and more every day, I become aware of how old I am. There are a myriad of ways we face this in all walks of life.
I keep looking in the mirror and staring at the random grey hairs that pop up. There are laugh lines that I’ve never had before around my mouth. My body shifts and tightens in different ways than it used to. None of these are inherently bad things. I actually got the grey hairs in my 20’s. I’ve just been dying my hair all this time. The laugh lines have developed since I’ve moved to California, so I’m thinking that means I’ve been happier for doing that. My body is shifting and tightening because I still give it a run for it’s money and it’s holding up so beautifully. I’ve never been more in touch with it than I have been now. Sure, I could be more consistent with dance and yoga and all of the things I’ve let go of because I work too much. So that’s what I’m aiming for. Balance. I’m of the mindset we are only as old as we make ourselves feel. I believe in a mind body connection. I tend to focus on nurturing positive thoughts and tendencies there. And as I’ve gotten older, I haven’t noticed too much of a problem. But that’s because I look considerably younger than I actually am. What if I didn’t look younger?
I’ve never had a problem relating to people older than me. I’ve always valued the experience and advice that someone older can share. Some of my best friends are older than me. I’ve always dated older than me also with very few exceptions. In fact my 10 year relationship was with someone who was 10 years older than me. As I’ve gotten older myself, I’ve found that I’ve become that for others in my circles of life. “Mama Jenn” as someone so aptly put it. Feels kind of weird, only in the sense that I hope my experience and advice is sage and helpful. Because sometimes I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing in life. But it’s all a circle. We all share many of the same experiences, and yearn for many of the same things.
Yet somehow, if we get to the nitty-gritty of it, there is a problem in our society with ageism. Whether it’s in the workforce, or there’s a problem with supporting those who are getting into their twilight years, I think it boils down to the problem being a lack of respect and care for our fellow human being. For including them in our lives and thanking them for the progress they’ve given us, that we continue to drive forward, generation after generation.
On the flip-side, we discount those of ideas and opinions of our youth, deeming them “too young” to know better, when they very well may hold the keys to evolving the human race. We fail to hold them accountable to ideas and ways of functioning in society because “Oh they’re just teenagers, they’ll grow out of it.” No, they won’t. Not if you don’t teach them.
Then there are the “mid”-aged, which is where I’m beginning to climb to. Which is fine. Overall, if I’m one of those sturdy sorts to live till she’s 85, I still have some 40-odd years left. We appear to be in the peak of things. Supposedly, we get the best pick of everything. And to a certain extent, societally speaking, that’s true. We can be the most driven, but we can also be the most defeated. Exhausted by the efforts to drive change, jaded by the state of bureaucracy that we vowed we would change in our youth.
To me ageism is akin to a popularity contest, designed by a patriarchal society of white male privilege that is so prevalent in many of the “-isms” we have today. (i.e. racism, sexism, classism etc…) Many people may take issue with the way I just phrased that, but it’s how I view things and if you look back in history, you’ll see it to be true. There are many things in my life that some would not deem privileged, but the truth is, despite the income/education/female inequalities I’ve experienced, there are others who suffer far more simply for being born in the wrong place and the wrong time. It’s not a balanced system. So it’s my responsibility, to use what little privilege I have, to stand up for those who need a voice. This is what we ALL should be doing for each other.
This system should be abolished. We need to focus on human relationships. We need to stop passing judgement, and start passing LOVE. We need to remember compassion and empathy. We need to create space for EVERYONE to grow and become who they want to be, even into the long shadows at the dusks of our lives. We need to take care of each other. But that starts within us. We need to be that change within ourselves first before we can enact that anywhere else. Release the fear and guilt we carry in our lives, the entitlement that people “owe” us anything, and replace with love, empathy and a question of what do we “owe” to others?
We would not only eradicate ageism, but ALL of the “-isms” that are present in this world.
So what have YOU done today that you could do differently? How could you have spoken differently? Taken things less personal? Let go of ideas that you no longer needed but were clinging to out of fear? Who could you have spoken out for when needed?
Just something to think about.