Maybe You’ve Just Outgrown Them

Why are we trying so hard to be accepted where we aren’t wanted?  The battle to get in the door is usually easy compared to the one you’ll be fighting every day after you get in.

4 comments

(Post updated from one entitled “It’s not ‘age discrimination.’ You’re the ‘adultier adult’.” from May 2018)


Milton and his red stapler in the basement in "Office Space" (before HR fixed the glitch)
Milton and his red stapler in the basement in “Office Space” (before HR fixed the glitch)

I’m in the process of being rather unceremoniously pushed out of my current job of many years. I have NOT been fired. There has been NO layoff. I’ve just been instructed along with a few others to find a new position, because our project is ending. I’m viewing this as an opportunity to finally make the transition I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. In doing so, I’ve been warned repeatedly that I’m up against a seemingly hopeless cultural phenomenon known as “age discrimination,” and I’m coming to terms with the best way to deal with it.

Becoming a “Senior Citizen”

Some of my earliest memories involve hearing my grandmother angrily telling someone at the utility company customer service department, or the fast-food drive-thru, or the social security administration, “I’m a SENIOR CITIZEN!” and then she would proceed to tell them why they should fix whatever was broken. In Grandma’s defense, she had a lot of responsibility, and a lot of problems to deal with, and sometimes that “senior citizen” card was the only one she had left to play. That was the 1970s, and she had grown up in a rural area, and in an era where her options for a career choices were limited. She was spunky, smart, and always ready to learn new things. I’ve often wondered how her life would have been different if she’d lived in a more metropolitan area, or if she had lived long enough to experience the Internet.

But that was then, and this is now. The world has changed, but people have not. The “young people” of Grandma’s day – the ones she needed a little respect from – were the “baby boomers.” Nearly 50 years later, that generation is now crying “Age discrimination!” the same way Grandma used to cry “I’m a senior citizen!” It’s the same game, but the players have changed. Now, the “millennials” are the ones who don’t respect their elders.

Fortunately, the world really has changed, and a lot of this conflict is now completely unnecessary and irrelevant. Thanks to technology and advancements in civilization, people have many more options for living healthy, independent, fulfilled lives for much longer than has ever been possible.

The Secret is to keep Growing

Maybe when you were a small child, you had fun with a fantasy character like Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. There was a point when you realized these were just that – fantasies. Did you stomp your feet, and scream about people not letting you be a baby anymore? Or did you put on your big kid pants and move on to the next stage of your life?

The same happens with school. Or at least it’s supposed to. As someone who stayed in school entirely too long (and has the student loan to prove it), I can tell you, it’s not “cool,” and after a while, it’s time to graduate, and move on with the next stage.

"Twelve years after high school and I'm still at the nerd table."

For many of us, the corporate world becomes a way to stay in that sophomoric, comfort zone. But even there, a time comes when the the dream either becomes the Hotel California (i.e. It’s a trap!) or we begin to realize that we’re like that creepy 20-year-old that was always hanging around the high school parking lot, trying to salvage his glory days.

There are entire (very expensive) “master classes” available right now targeting people who are in their 50s and 60s who are trying desperately to get back into a job that no longer exists. These programs teach attendees how to speak, act, and dress like they’re 29, and format their resume’s to “trick” the recruiters into thinking they are younger.

For what? Do you really want to be 30 or 40 years old again?! Why are we trying so hard to be accepted where we aren’t wanted?  The battle to get in the door is usually easy compared to the one you’ll be fighting every day after you get in.

When is enough enough?

As we mature, we change – mentally, physically, and emotionally. The things we want and need out of life develop. It’s great to stay healthy and vibrant and active for as long as possible, but it’s not particularly healthy to refuse to grow up. If we stay “stuck” at age 39, we’ll never experience the joy of being a “senior citizen.”  Yes, we may still have bills to pay, but maybe there’s a way to do that without trying to turn back the clock.

That horrifying moment when you're looking for an adult, but then realize you are an adult. So you look for an older adult...someone successfully adulting. An adultier adult.I turned 50 a while back, and I know I have a lot to learn (my Mother will be happy to confirm this). My goal for this next stage of my life is to move into a more fulfilling role, apropos of MY experience and MY life – not a fantasy one that no longer exists, if it ever did. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good mentors over the years, and I want to step into that mentorship role. When dealing with young people, I want to be helping them, not trying to be one of them, or awkwardly trying to win their approval and acceptance. Like it or not, I am the adultier adult.

So what does an adult do in this situation?

Job hunting at age 50-something.  Not a fun prospect.  I have a few options to pursue, but I’m interested in hearing your ideas. Have you embarked on a midlife career transition? How did you do it?

4 comments on “Maybe You’ve Just Outgrown Them”

  1. As we approach fifty, or accelerate past it, we represent a resistance to ‘change’ movement in the workplace. The reality is that we have had plenty of years in which to witness the same so-called ‘changes’ having been tried out over and over again, each time with a new ‘label’ to dress the ‘change’ up as something new and different, rather than something that has already been tried and failed. This knowledge, based upon life experience, is intimidating to younger workers who want to push through their ‘changes’ without having to deal with ageing cynics! At this point, in one’s career (I.e. the end of it!), it’s time to get out, get up and be one’s own boss! Personally, I’m going to write all of the books that I’ve had in my head for 49 years. It’s time to be me!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s