When all your coworkers in your first job out of college are over the age of 60, it changes you.
A mere year and a half ago, I was laughing with my friends, going over the latest drama, the results of last night’s Bachelor episode and who’s getting asked to this weekend’s Alpha Tao Omega formal.
I was texting in several group chats while Instagraming, snapping and pinning away. But now here I am, sitting at my dark-stained shiny wood desk from the 90’s, answering a Cisco phone, working on a Dell computer, using a label maker, managing paper files, opening letters with a letter opener and yes, I do feel like I have stepped back in time.
My day-to-day that once consisted of chatting about VSCO filters and the latest fashion trends have turned into conversations about the news, retirement funds, funerals and worst of all, colonoscopy appointments.
It’s gotten to the point where I feel like maybe I should schedule my own colonoscopy now? Should I get an MRI just in case? Should I start worrying about the leading causes of cardiac arrest and watching my cholesterol? I mean, after just one blink, suddenly my life will have passed me by and I will wish I had done all these things, or so I am warned each and every day.
Compound interest is also a daily discussion. “If only I had started 5 years earlier! Oh, the money I’d have!” I hear them say. I must confess, due to their constant encouragement, I really have begun my very own retirement account. I’m sure this will behoove me in the future. So yes, I am grateful. I’m also using much more sophisticated vocabulary words, like behoove.
I just didn’t expect to make this switch so soon. So fast. I mean, I graduated college like one second ago and I went from zero to one hundred. From my biggest worry being whether or not I’ll be invited to the most epic Spring Break trip of 2016 to worrying about insurance, doctor appointments, bills, death and more on life’s deepest questions all at once.
They talk about their bowel movements, balding issues, 60 minutes and Cat Stevens. They reference actors I have never heard of and look at me with disgust when I don’t know every James Taylor song reference. They put double spaces between all of their sentences because “That is how we did it on a typewriter.” They talk about “learning the computer” as if you can take a class on how to create a playlist on Spotify, or let’s be honest, Apple Music.
The problem is, I have now become a 60-year-old trapped in a 23-year-old’s body. I’m listening to Bob Dylan. I’m longing for the good old days and I’m pretty sure I’m having back problems. I refuse to upgrade from my iPhone 5 and insist on blaming the computer for any and all of my life’s complications. I simply won’t use online task managers because “There is nothing better than writing things down.”
I’m skeptical of Venmo. I no longer want all my personal info on the Internet. “Who’s asking?” I answer to all of Facebook’s pesky questions.
Worst of all, I find myself replying to what anyone says with a warning. A friend says, “I got engaged!” and I reply with a handful of wedding horror stories from my own personal experience along with a quick anecdote about my sister’s friend’s aunt’s daughter who had this one thing happen to her that you will never believe so beware.
A friend says, “I got a Christmas tree!” and I reply, “They’re a fire hazard. Don’t burn your house down!” with fearful eyes. A friend says “I met a guy on Tinder,” excited about the prospect, and I warn her with a horror story of someone getting abducted. (Along with a quick monologue about the ever-present threat of STDs).
A friend calls an Uber, and I casually say, “I hope he’s not a rapist.” A friend says, “This is so going on my Insta story,” and I say, “I sure hope your profile is on private. Some creep could come find us and we could end up dead!” Then I of course immediately recount a relevant Dr. Phil episode that is sure to make them think before they post.
I even found myself talking about age 40 like it’s right around the corner. Right around the corner! Almost my entire life, happening all over again, is how much time is between me and being 40 years old. But I’m like, in 20 years, *insert terrifying phenomenon here* might be an issue for me so I’m going to start worrying about it now.
I’ve also started talking about my 20’s like they are behind me. Reflecting on what I have learned. Imparting my self-proclaimed wisdom on the younger generation. Longing for the days that I could eat whatever I want and claiming my metabolism is just not what it used to be.
I think I have even physically aged working here. Just the other day I was meeting my mom for lunch. I told the hostess, “I think my mom’s already seated.” She replied, “Oh, that woman over there with the walker?” I’m sorry, what? That woman was like 100 years old. She seriously thought I was old enough for her to be my mom? First of all, rude. Second, ouch. I used to get asked if I was 16 and be pissed about it. Now I’m at the point that if someone thought I was 16, I would literally shed tears of joy, kiss them and call them the angel that they are.
So while you may be able to catch other 23-year-olds enjoying drinks at happy hour, exploring new cities or making a living creating viral YouTube videos, you can catch me at the next funeral, watching a PBS Special or complaining about the technological revolution.
However, you may also find that I spend less time attending to my phone and more time attending to people. You may see that I no longer hurry through life, but walk in a steady rhythm of rest. I now enjoy a quiet morning reading the New Yorker and a simple day wandering through the Getty (with no Instagram post required).
I am not so worried about the small things. My thoughts aren’t filled with endless comparison and an ever-present sense of FOMO. I may have lost the ability to keep up with the latest and greatest, but I gained a sense of balance and inner peace. I’m not so swept up by trends and I think my boots from last winter look just fine.
My 60-year-old coworkers may not understand the difference between a Word doc and a Google doc, but they do understand the dangers of materialism. “At first you may own things, but soon the things will own you,” they say. They showed me how to see the goodness in people. They are not concerned about one’s sense of style or charm, let alone her number of followers or likes. They notice character and they are impressed by one’s whole being. They understand the importance of eating well and moving one’s body. They value health. They value relationships. Frankly, they value the gift of being alive. Something those of us still in the sunrise season of life, often forget is a gift in itself.
Intergenerational kinship can be challenging, but it is well worth it. My life has been enriched because of my unlikely friends. They have taught me, and I have taught them.
They have brought depth, and I have brought happiness. They teach me traditions, and I inspire innovation. Though we may be decades apart, we are not so separate after all. It is good for us to work together, to know one another. It is good to build bridges where there are chasms of misunderstandings, and it doesn’t hurt that our differences will give each other a good laugh now and again.
Turns out, 23 going on 60 is not so bad.