The thing about age

These are my thoughts on ageism - discriminating people, and more importantly, ideas, just because of someone’s age.

I’m 22 years old. If you’re older than me, don’t hang up. Give me a chance. Sure, I may not have as much experience as you, and a lot of what I say may be wrong and uninformed, but that’s fine. Mistakes are good because that means decisions are being made - and I can fix those mistakes, but I have to start somewhere - and that’s where this post comes in.

I’m going to pitch this idea in two ways. First, to someone younger than me, and then, to someone older. You’ll want to read them both to fully understand my view

To someone younger,
When I disregard an idea you have - it might be because it’s a terrible idea - but more often than not, it’s because I’m jealous. I see a better version of myself when I look at you. You bring with you so much enthusiasm and potential, that I often wonder “What the f*** am I doing with my life?”. My feedback doesn’t come from a good place, and I certainly don’t have your best interests at heart. I feel like you might out-achieve me, and that’s terrifying. I too had big dreams 10 years ago that I haven’t achieved - so why should you?

I’m shutting you down because it makes me feel better. If anyone can understand that - it’s got to be you. Why? Well, you’re really ambitious, and you’ll do anything to leave your mark on this world, including preventing others from stealing your limelight. You came to me because you saw someone you respected and could look up to - and because I’m similar to you. If I am indeed similar to you, then I’m doing exactly what you would do too.

I hope you’ll walk away from a conversation with me the same way I did with my elders - with disdain, and a burning passion to prove them wrong.

More importantly, if I tell you that you’re doing a good job - be terrified. Approval from someone you respect is a dangerous drug. Your goal isn’t to get my approval - it’s to get me to be terrified of you and for me to do anything I can to shut you down. It’s so easy to get trapped relying on the approval of an elder.

Honestly, at the end of the day, I blame you. You look up to us, as elders, to be your mentors and you expect us to be mature and have your best interests at heart. Why is that? Because we’re older? That’s aegist.

To my elders,
I do look up to you. Not because you’re older than me, or have more experience. No. I look to you as a worthy opponent - someone I can still beat. I’ve already failed my younger self by not hitting the goals I had, but when I see you - I’m not there yet, and that means I can still do better.

At first, I try to figure out what you were like at my age. Sure, I’m interested in your life, but more importantly, I’m pacing myself. I try to figure out what metrics I’m doing better than you on, and on what metrics I’m doing worse. If you’re within a reasonable band, then I’ll treat you as an equal. If you were significantly ahead when you were my age, then I’ll try my best to catch up. You can’t change your past, but I can change my future, and that means I have potential. I will still see you as an equal though - because anything more, and I’m bound to your approval. If I’m bound to your approval, then I can never beat you. I can only ever be good enough.

I’d love to hear your advice, and yes, even your stories and experiences. Learning what you did right and wrong is really valuable. After all, passing knowledge between generations is what brought humanity this far. While spewing words of wisdom is great for your self esteem - don’t ever forget the golden rule. You’re giving me advice, not orders. Don’t be disappointed when I don’t do what you say. I value your opinions, the same way I value the opinions of a peer or someone younger than me. Would you like me to weigh your words more highly? Why? Because you’re older than them? That’s aegist.

Ageism is an unfortunate fact of life in our society. We all experience it, but we also all contribute to it. Instead of trying to fix society, it’s far easier to adjust your own worldview so you’re less affected by it. I hope this essay helps you do just that


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