The other evening, I was speaking at a meeting of 50 or so web designers and web developers in Brisbane. As I stood up and gazed around the darkened room, I saw only one or two people of my vintage in the crowd. The rest were bright-eyed, keen young designers, as yet unground down by the world.
And I realised as I looked at each face … I was old enough to be their mother (and in some cases their grandmother). Oi! Nothing like that sort of wake-up call to make you rethink your place in the world.
I had the thought: What can an overweight, middle-aged mum possibly have to share with these young guys (most of them were blokes)?
In that split second, I was aware I was a living fossil in the web world. I was hand-coding Fortran cards to run on computers as big as rooms before PCs were invented. I was keywording industrial relations decisions before the world wide web was created. And I remember the excitement of getting one or two emails per day – all greeted with a gorgeous male voice announcing, “You’ve got mail”. This was their history.
So I shared my stories of how I had come to where I was, as well as tips on how they could beat the biggest bugbear web designers face today. And what stood out for me about the talk, were the questions asked at the end. Yes, many had folded arms and closed minds – but others were excited and had words bubbling out of them like a shaken coke bottle.
At times we forget how much we know, how far we have travelled and how much we have learned. You see, I start each day by looking at how much I still have to learn, and rarely look back at where I have been.
But this time, in glancing back, I realised that somehow, somewhere along the way, I had become an elder of the tribe. A keeper of stories and teller of tales. I had value – by virtue of my past.
I have to admit the mantle of age sits uncomfortably on me. It itches and prickles like unwashed sheets. Part of me wants to race pell-mell down the sand to play in the waves of youth … Part of me says, “Let’s sit and enjoy the sun”. Part of me wants to once again rebel with clothes and hair that shock and confront. Part of me craves comfortable slippers and a quiet night in.
I’ve stormed the barricades, and I’ve chipped at the glass ceiling, making the odd chink for others on the way up. I’ve collected experiences and emotions like kids used to collect Pokemon cards.
But another part of me whispers, “There’s more … there’s still more“.
After all, there’s the evolving of copywriting for mobile devices to explore, and the changes Panda 2 has brought in. There’s the growth of local in tandem with the global. And the ever-expanding reach of the social media pool to play in. There’s more … there’s still more.
There are cultures to experience and love to find once again. There is healing and joy, and much sadness and grieving to be done. There are pieces to be picked up, and others discarded. There’s more … there’s still more.
Age is no longer the straight jacket it once was. It is now full of juice and potential.
So, if you are also traversing the bumpy seas of mid-life – I tip my hat to you, my fellow traveller. And if you have any stories or tips you want to share on making this transition to elder easier, I would love to hear them. After all, it’s more fun to travel with others.