I have a friend that I frequently have lunch with. She’s a live wire, thoughtful, artistic, and always challenges me. She is wise and creative and 30 years older than me.
When we go out I am not infrequently asked during or after if she is my mother. We don’t look anything alike. She’s a foot shorter than me, round faced and Irish. I am rarely asked when going out with my work mates (who also don’t look like me) if they’re my brother or sister.
I’m sure you’ve reached the same conclusion I have. When others see two people with an obvious gap in age they make an assumption that their relationship is familial because friendships across generations are so rare. Though if my friend was a man I wouldn’t be surprised if many assumed he would be my boss (that difference in perception could be an article just on its own).
This is a sad thing. I’m not certain whether people of different generations avoid one another or simply lack the opportunity to meet each other. I know my friend who frequents many artistic circles where she interacts with people of all ages does comment that sometimes she’s a bit tired of dealing with people who are dealing with young people’s problems and even though I’m younger than her I do definitely encounter this as well. There are times that I’m done with hearing about early-life getting-established type challenges, I don’t need to hear about angsty relationships, or youthful realizations about ‘just how the world really works!’. Young people too feel held down by elders, feel sometimes that they’re not daring enough, energetic enough, and ‘behind the times’.
From a young age we are segregated into age groups from grade school to sports activities and even in clubs (seniors, youth, etc). I worry how this separation makes older people older and younger people younger. Meaning older people lose a connection to the wonder of youth and the young lose a connection to the wisdom and culture of age.
The struggles between youth and elder have been a common theme across cultures and for thousands of years but perhaps our ability to truly operate without one another has never been easier. There was a time when were forced to interact with a more established set of society in order to advance and interact in our social circles.
Certainly not that long ago young people were expected to be living mature and developed lives by their early 20s and their interactions with elders were much more common. The learning curve of life was much steeper and the journey much shorter.
I know that I have benefited greatly not just from having people with more experience in my life but also from having young people in my life. I have purposefully sought out communities that embrace people of all different ages and backgrounds because I have found that it helps me grow and it’s a whole lot more interesting.
I revel in my time with my Irish friend and some of my richest conversations have come with friends of my parents who are now my friends. I also find that it doesn’t take long with my younger friends to move through some of the things I find cute and sometimes tedious to truly inspiring conversations about ways that the world could work.
I’d like to see more place and opportunities for generations to connect and I look to places in my own life that I can foster this. Where have you found connection across generations and how is it encouraged in your community?