I know, you’re older than me. So is everyone else.
I also know you have more experience than me (in some areas, I would argue not all areas). I appreciate your experiences. I value your perspective. What prevents you from valuing mine?
My age in my office is a running joke. It’s a running joke because frankly, I am pretty young. I play into it also, and remind people I am basically a toddler compared to some of them. I am fortunate that my age has nothing to do with my respect level around many of my peers and all of this is in jest. When I walk into a room, I expect to have to earn respect. That door swings both ways. I may respect you as a person because inherently, that’s just what I do. I do not respect you professionally just because you’re older than me.
I’m a self-proclaimed old soul. I find I have many more similarities to people that are 10 and 20 years older than I am rather than my own peer group. It’s always been that way. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve been around (both my age and older) and I’ve just found my personal comfort level to be more similar to people older than myself.
It kills me that I do encounter people that dismiss me because of my age. They see it as a weakness where I leverage it as a strength. I’ve still got the stamina of a 21 year old in college when it comes to studying. I have the benefit of being able to stay up all night and not feel it as bad the next day. Heck, my hangover might not even be as bad, though I can count on one hand how many times I’ve even had a hangover in my entire life (not my jam, y’all).
I’m trying to make moves here. I’m trying to build a name for myself, not just at my company, but in my personal life. I hate it – and I mean for real I hate it – when people preface things with “When I was your age I also thought X item was a big deal” or “You will get over this when you’re older.” Nothing invalidates a person quite as quickly as pointing out that their feelings aren’t worthy or they’re blowing it out of proportion simply because they lack maturity to handle a situation.
Maturity may often come with age, but age does not define maturity. What seems like a big deal to me is oftentimes A BIG DEAL! I’m extremely logical, I don’t react emotionally to nearly anything and I think with my brain, not my heart, not anecdotally, but about the entire big picture (as best as I can see it). I do not need someone telling me that if I was 10 years older, this wouldn’t be a big deal. Maybe it wouldn’t. I don’t know and neither do you. You know what we do know? That your comment didn’t help this situation. I also know that not everyone is like me, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all deserve a level of respect for our opinions and our experiences. Being older doesn’t negate this. It is a fundamental necessity.
Recently, in a friend group on Facebook there was a major falling out. You might roll your eyes here and say that nobody should care that much about the internet, but I bet if you are, it’s because you’re old. Err, I mean, not a member of some tight knit groups on Facebook. I know the age shaming goes both ways (this is my attempt at a joke).
But seriously – a constructive conversation was being had. People were being transparent. They were speaking their minds and expressing their feelings. Then the mamma bear (her words, not mine) came in and said something that was pretty wise, but she prefaced it with “When you’re older…” and then I stopped listening.
When you do something like that it sends a message that because we’re not older, we’re not able to understand or comprehend on the same level as you. That our feelings are invalidated because we’re young. That we shouldn’t be worked up about something that we care about because there are bigger problems in the world and that your experience has given you the opportunity to look DOWN (not back, I said down) on all of us from your high horse and laugh because you think we’re being ridiculous. It’s not constructive, helpful or appreciated. It’s actually the worst. Literally, the worst.
Then there’s the folks that assume you’re not qualified because of your age. They take a look at you and immediately talk down to you because you can’t possibly know more or the same amount about a specific topic. Even if you did, they don’t take you seriously.
Now, I am not for giving things away for free. I earn my respect. I earn the trust of my peers and frankly, I don’t disagree with many of the sentiments of folks older than me. I too think participation trophies are dumb. I also don’t think that people should sponge off their parents and work part-time for the rest of their lives. I value hard work, commitment, dusting yourself off, putting in your time. I get it. I do disagree with an automatic negation of my thoughts and feelings based on age. I do disagree that I am not as capable of you because I’m only 25 years old. I disagree. If you don’t, I guess you miss out on the opportunity to watch me succeed. That may sound arrogant, but honestly, I am not about to let age keep me from sitting at the table and what I lack in talent I make up for in grit.
If I have to work a little bit harder to prove my points, I will. I do believe people need to put their time in and I am not expecting anyone to hand me anything. They never have so why would today change that? I don’t want a handout. I want you to give me a chance and not look at my face – which looks like it belongs to a 12 year old – and decide off the bat that I am not capable or worthy. I want you to quit saying “those damn Millenials” as if we’re some disease (can I remind you that you raised us and it was your idea to give out participation trophies?). Stop making assumptions and let me show up to work and show you how I work just like the 30+ year olds.
This message has been brought to you by a salty 25 year old that’s just trying to succeed in life.