Monday, March 14, 2016

A New Ism

Well, it really isn’t so new: ageism. Ageism, as defined by the cultural monitors of our time, relates to perceived discrimination based on a person’s age. That is, being rejected for something (or promoted for something) because of one’s age. Some of it is self-imposed, I’m sure.

I have friends and acquaintances a decade or so younger than I am, who are constantly sending me things that say, in effect, "I’m one of the old people, now." Well, I’m not. But that isn’t the point.

The point is, from the time we are born, we face discrimination because of age. One is too young to do this or that, too juvenile to understand, to immature to have some responsibility and so on. And them, somewhere along the way, the pointer shifts to "too old." And while we accept that we are too young or too old for some things, we admit our admiration for those who begin adult tasks younger, or undertake strenuous activities as they get older.

I reject being classified by my age. It has the negative effect of making me think there are things I can no longer accomplish, tasks I can no longer do. There are days when I may not want to do some things that need doing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t. Instead, it means I’m more thoughtful about how I expend my energy and my time. I still can do anything I want to do or need to do, but just because I do them more slowly doesn’t mean I have lost the ability. It means, I believe, that I’m wiser about how I use resources; mine and the world’s.

Years ago, when we were relocating to our mountainside, I sometimes worked along side the men who were constructing our house. I noticed then that if 20-foot 1 x 12 boards needed to be moved from the stack to the house-site itself, two men would take two boards and walk them to where they were needed. I would pick up two and balance them on my shoulder and carry them myself. That’s when I discovered my version of the law of conservation of energy: at the end of the day the two guys were ready to go home and feed their cattle or check the turkey houses or make their firewood. I was ready to pour something over ice and sit down. We got the same amount of work done in a day, but they could do it longer. It wasn’t a question of age, but of science: share the work and have energy left over for other jobs. It wasn’t a matter of age, but of physics.

So now I’m 25 years further along, and I still have to cut and split firewood to heat the house we built then; still maintain equipment that is needed to move snow from the driveway or repair fences or haul logs to the furnace. I still have to build bookshelves for the ever-expanding library or install new lights, fix plumbing problems and other things needing attention. Where we live, how we live, means taking care of things that need help because getting someone to come and do it isn’t easy. Maybe it isn’t easy anywhere these days, but when "town" is 30 miles away, or 15 if you go to the one three mountains to the west, you have to be self-sufficient where ever possible. Age can have an effect on that, too.

Age should give you experience and knowledge. You should be able to remember what happened before, so you can apply the same fix again, or at least eliminate that as a problem and go on to find a real solution. What should not happen is that you say "I can’t do that anymore," and sit down. Unless that’s what you want to do. I’ve known people who retired so thoroughly that when you asked them what they did all day, replied that they "watched tv." I watch TV, for maybe an hour at night, maybe two if we have a movie we want to see. But after that, I still have things to do, things I want to do or need to do that won’t wait. I don’t work as quickly as I one did, but I can still do the things I used to do when I was younger.

I still remember how eager I was to take on adult responsibilities, grown-up jobs. Well, now I have them and then some. I am learning to take them on one at a time, as they occur. I want to leave time for the things I want to do, learn a few new things, try things I couldn’t do the first time I tried them, perhaps. After all, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

It’s just "Older-and-wiser-ism."

No comments:

Post a Comment