Monday, July 3, 2017

Hanging Out With Old People (And Why Young People Don't Like It).

Why does hanging out with old people seem such a drag?

When I was young, the idea of going to hang out at Grandma's house was almost painful.  Yea, I know, in the movies, they show the kids all chomping at the bit to go visit Grandma and Grandpa.   But the reality is, of course, Grandma and Grandpa's house was boring.   All they did was sit around and talk, talk, talk.   No games to play, and nothing to watch on TeeVee except The Lawrence Welk Show.

Today, it is even worse.  Grandma and Grandpa don't even have a Playstation, and all Grandpa does is shout at Fox News on the TeeVee.

But when you live among the old in their natural environment, and get to study them up-close, you see some interesting things that you ignored in the haste of childhood.   You realize things about life you had previously missed.   You realize life is pretty finite.   And you also realize that those "young people" in their 30's are about in the prime of their lives and that life does follow a bit of a story arc, at least in terms of your mortality.

Yes, the "story arc" of life as they teach you in school is bullshit as I have noted before.   According to your guidance counselor, you got good grades in High School, aced the SATs, then got into a good college and then landed that first job.   You then climbed the corporate ladder, increasing your status and salary with every step.  You bought a bigger house, a nicer car (from Chevy, to Pontiac, to Oldsmobile, to Buick, and maybe someday to Cadillac!) and your life got better and better until one day you retired and went off to play golf in Florida.   The End. 

Oh, and if you fucked any of it up along the way, well, too bad, you end up as a bum on skid row.

Well, it doesn't quite work that way.  There are second acts in American lives.  Life lurches and chugs along, and even if your life isn't a "story arc" it does have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  And that's OK.   When you read someone's biography, whether it is a famous politician, scientist, actor, or whatever, there is always this pattern.   Things go well until you get about 3/4th the way through the book, when a lot of bad shit starts to happen, usually after a visit to a doctor.   People act all amazed like this never happened to anyone ever before, but every single damn one of these biographies pretty much ends the same way.   "He was laid to rest at his hometown cemetery on....."   The End.

What you realize, looking back, is that those golden years - the late 20's to early 50's - were your prime productive years in your life.  The slip by so quickly - maybe 30 years of your life - and they should not be squandered.   And I guess that is why it is such a tragedy when you hear about kids (and I mean kids) in their 30's living with or off their parents, waiting for life to start, when in fact, it is nearly halfway over.

Mark was fortunate to be raised in a retirement home.   He learned early on to enjoy Lawrence Welk, and to listen to old folks and hear what they have to say.   He also learned early on that this party doesn't go on forever, and in fact, those last chapters are best if you could just avoid them entirely.

This was a constructive lesson for him to learn at an early age.  Most of us try to avoid such lessons, being bored and fidgeting when forced to visit older relatives - if in fact they are not shunted off to "retirement communities" and seen only once or twice a year.

I am not saying you need to hang out with oldsters, only that you can't let the time slip away without living life.  I look back now and wonder how I had the chutzpah to go to law school and start my own practice (only two years after graduation) and continue to practice for nearly 30 years.   I wonder, but then again, I realize, when you are 30, you think you can conquer the world - or at least you should feel that way.  It is a feeling that goes away over time.

We read about the "boy geniuses" who started such-and-such a tech company and are in awe that they are so successful when so young.  But if you think about it, of course this is true.   Who the hell starts up a tech company at age 60?   Very damn few people, that's for sure.   No, it is the younger generation that takes the helm, and that is how it should be.

It is funny, but even when I was that age, I felt that "older people" ran things in life.   But of course, that was an attitude carried over from my teenage years, when I viewed people in one of three categories, "kids" aged 0-22, "adults" aged 22-60, and "old people" 60 and above.   Youth doesn't discriminate between a 30 year old and a 50 year old, even if Father Time does.   So we tend to see "adults" in the workplace and not distinguish them in terms of age, until they become really old, in which case we give them a gold-watch and a sendoff.

I am not sure where this is going, other than I just watched a biography of Charles Bronson on YouTube, and it struck me how all these biographies read about the same.   Young guy sets out, does well, has some tragedy in his life, and then dies.   Bing, Bang, Boom.

I guess I am content with what I did with my life.   Kinda disappointed that I squandered my youth with drugs and diversions, but then again, I would be a different person today if I had done other things.   Maybe better, maybe worse, who knows?   You can't unbark the dog.  But if you can be content, when all is said and done, well, you're pretty damn lucky.

If you're lucky, you'll look back and say, "I don't need any more."