Reaching for Relevance: I’m Learning as Fast as I Can
A writer friend of mine recently encouraged me to keep writing, because, we need to keep our generation (we are both in our late fifties) relevant. Up until that moment I knew that I was struggling with something, I felt a little down, a little old, a little slow. But I didn’t realize that what I was really feeling was irrelevant.
Like the librarian Wordsworth in the Twilight Zone episode, the one where he was judged obsolete by a totalitarian government official, I wouldn’t want to stand before a jury of my peers right now and have my relevance judged. I’m just not convinced that I would be able to argue my case very well. It would be a struggle to prove my relevance in a world that is moving towards greater and greater reliance on technology even as my own feeble grasp of it seems to have slipped into reverse. I observe other people who seem to be negotiating just fine through this world of embryonic electronic elocution and digital doo daddery, and I struggle along like Laura Ingalls Wilder in my horse and buggy world, wide eyed as a time traveler who’s been ejected 200 years into the future. Every freaking morning I wake up like Woody Allen in Sleeper, wondering where the hell and who I am. Things keep speeding up as I’m slowing down. I don’t understand the changes I see in politics, religion, and television viewing preferences. I don’t even own a tablet for goodness sake. I read books…printed on paper…with INK! I know how to write my blog but fail miserably when it comes to networking. I don’t think I even know what that is. And oh, I use a flip phone. There it is. The last nail in the coffin. I am obsolete.
And I’m not even trying hard to fight back. It’s like I’ve accepted being obsolete, I believe in my own obsolescence, unlike Wordsworth the librarian. Wordsworth was convinced of his relevance in a world that no longer recognized his vocation as a value to society. He did not let the judgement against him–“You are obsolete”, define him. He held his head high and proclaimed courageously and proudly that he was a librarian. The derision of his peers did not diminish his belief in himself or his vocation. He kept his head up and his reading glasses on until the end. He was so brave. There wasn’t a speck of insecurity clouding his self judgement. He knew who he was and that he was valuable and his life was worthwhile in spite of the jeers and debasements of his accusers. He died defying their authority to decide his relevance for him. He died convinced of his own relevance.
I wish I was like Wordsworth, but, right about now, I am a big, steaming, gelatinous, quivering bowl of insecurity soup. I feel too old, too gray, too fat, too incompetent, too blah, blah, blah fill in the blanks with whatever negative stereotypical adjective you can think of that might apply to a fifty seven and a half year old woman, a normal woman not a Jane Fonda kind of fifty seven and a half year old woman, and that is how I’ve been feeling lately. It doesn’t help to look back on my work life and realize that it was a collection of relatively insignificant part time jobs and volunteer work that nobody really cares about. In my personal life I didn’t have a family, but raised some really happy dogs and plants and painted pretty pictures of flowers and things. WOW! What a world changer.
This is bad. I’m not even 60 yet. I can’t imagine what that might feel like. I’m not even gonna go there right now.
Betty Davis once quipped that old age was no place for sissies. She was right. And she would know about the struggle for relevance as you age. She was a fabulously famous movie star, an iconic, strong and in demand Hollywood personality. She exuded competence, accomplishment and strength as a young woman. Getting old must have really sucked for her. Losing her looks, her marketability, and, to the fickle world of public opinion, her relevance. At least she didn’t have to worry about mastering cell phones, tablets, lap tops, blue tooth compatibility, yada yada yada. I need to go now and sit down and spend twenty minutes typing a short text to my sister. Then I’ll go take a nap. Maybe when I wake up I’ll figure out something relevant to write about.
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