A while back, I expressed my feelings about a continuing education postcard I received with the promise that 50 is the new 30! Personally, I am fine with being 50 and I wouldn’t want to be 30 again, new or otherwise. Being 30 for me was fraught with difficult decisions and the fear of the unknown. Being 50--or over 50 like I am--is like finally getting past a bad traffic jam and onto the wide-open highway.
The reason this blog (and my book) is titled Flip-Flops After 50 is because I am exploring the evolving attitudes and perspectives of aging...as I age. The main theme seems to be: life is different at 50. (I know. That sounds obvious, but bear with me for a minute . . .) Call us what you like--baby boomers, seniors, slow drivers--we older folk make decisions based on an entirely different perspective than someone in their 30s. We have the breadth of our decision-making history to consult which contains a whole lot more information than those young whippersnappers who think buying a car without 4-wheel drive in New England is a good idea. (Why yes, my daughter is looking for a new car, why do you ask?) Our decision-making history has the span of time and experience to inform us--whether we heed it or not. We have the ability to make extremely insightful and well-thought out decisions and we have the freedom to make dumb mistakes over and over. How we handle those decisions is part of the beauty of our age; we accept the responsibility and deal with it or we simply forget about it.
I remember how angry I used to get when applying for a job or some other responsibility and the phrase, “you don’t have enough experience” would slap me in the face. It was the ultimate Catch-22; how was I ever going to get any experience if no one would give me any? I actually still think it’s a stupid rationale for young job seekers, but now I understand the concept a little more clearly. It’s not experience in knowing about a particular field that matters, but experience in knowing about yourself. Why spend years educating a teacher or an accountant only to tell them at their first job interview, “You don’t have enough experience.” What were all those classes and tests for? I have known enough young teachers who are more than adequately prepared to do the job of teaching; some even better than a veteran teacher. The experience they need, of course, is not how to plan a lesson or deliver content - that’s fresh knowledge they possess. It’s the knowing how to finesse a parent-teacher conference or navigate a new administration where they are wet behind the ears. And that only comes with experience...of age.
I’ve always said, “maturity is a wonderful thing.” (Just ask my kids. They’re sick of hearing it.) But it’s true. There are times when there is nothing you can do with a 20-something except sit back and wait for a few months or years to go by. Then watch those youngsters figure out how to make sure they have insurance or buy the car with 4-wheel drive. At 50+ we’ve probably got all those things taken care of. Now we can just enjoy the ride.