I am no longer 21. Or 31. Beyond that, I don’t wish to get into specifics – in my dreams I haven’t changed much since high school (maturity-wise), and I’d like to keep it that way. The world is still mine for the taking! There are Olympic sports I can still conquer! (Uh…curling?) And I will continue wearing mini-skirts, if I want to!
I’m happy with my numberless age. So, when I see headlines, articles and tweet threads bestowing over-the-top praise to the over-the-hill crowd for accomplishing, well…anything (and then acting gobsmackingly amazed about it), it makes me a little crazy.
Yes, I understand the merit in pointing out certain spectacular feats: the centenarian who completes a marathon or the 70-year-old who controls their response to a casually tossed, “OK Boomer” come to mind. But marveling at those who have published, danced, painted, played, spoken, acted, taught, graduated or breathed beyond the 40-year mark can seem a little condescending.
I’m sure most of these accolades come from warm and fuzzy places of wanting to celebrate, inspire and motivate others to continue reaching towards dreams while simultaneously reaching for their Centrum Silver. And I agree that we shouldn’t stop reaching or learning. Ever.
I also agree that we should pat ourselves on the back and feel proud of the triumphs we continue to realize — just like any human at any age, because of the things we’ve done and not because of the conglomeration of numbers on our birth certificates. Having said that, I’m now thinking the centenarian in my marathon scenario above might want the limelight pointed in the other direction, too. Because who’s to say what the cut-off for throwing kudos into the universe at someone “for their age…” should be?
Certainly, as one grows older, the body and mind don’t and won’t always cooperate in the ways that we wish. And as Jan Brady and all other awkward sibling sidekicks know…life’s not always fair. Ageism exists in the workplace and the social sphere – for both the young and the less young. There are times when one may NOT get that promotion, job, audition, agent, date, ticket reprieve or second glance simply because of the number of rings on their tree stump. Or the appearance of such.
These instances of being overlooked, or conversely, scrutinized are likely the reason that over a billion hits popped up when I googled “success over 40.” People have been burned. And those innocent headlines equal hope.
I’ll admit…I’ve clicked on and shared some of the stories that express excitement and barely-masked bewilderment over the giant steps of those considered to be past their prime. Even with writing — something that in my mind can be done at ANY age from 4-400 as long as the brain is willing — there is much discussion when someone publishes their first book after 35. It’s done, yes. But it somehow merits a mention. Yet, I wonder how many people actually check on an author’s age before they check out the book.
I find the existence of those over a billion affirmations of, “You Can STILL __ Over 40!!!” to be a bit discouraging, too. If such achievements were thought to be common, would they even need to be discussed within the frame of all-caps, excessive exclamation points and photos of jubilantly jowly professionals?
Maybe I’ll feel differently when I’m a little farther onto the other side of the hill instead of mostly enjoying the view from the top. Maybe whenever I happen to “do…” whatever it is I hope to be doing, I’ll seek recognition and proudly mention my age within the same breath.
But it’s nice to imagine a world where reactions of surprise or baffled admiration will morph into simple appreciation for an individual’s accomplishments, no matter their generational meme.
And if that’s the case, you can applaud all you want.
So, what do you think…do we, as a society, make too big a deal of abilities for those over the age of 40 or at other significant points in life? Do you think age is worth mentioning regarding successes? Lastly, do you believe I’m just an over-thinking curmudgeon teetering on the verge of a mid-life crisis? If so, what color sports car should I buy? Thank you for sharing in the comments!
Find me on Twitter @amandahoving
P.S. If you think this post is somehow a departure from my thinking here. It’s not. Really.
I’ve been writing around the web lately…find updates here.