I still remember when I was 10 years old and excitedly told my grandmother that I had bought my first 45 (rpm record), Blue Suede Shoes by Elvis Presley. I was 10; she was 75. She not only didn’t seem to respond to my excitement, she didn’t know who Elvis Presley was! How could that be? I was beyond incredulous (although at the time I probably wouldn’t have known the word ‘incredulous’). Now my husband and I just smile at each other when confronted with ‘cultural’ references to popular music, having no idea who the artists are. Now I can see things from my grandmother’s perspective. What’s important at one stage of life isn’t necessarily important at another.
I remember once years ago when a young adult in our extended family was going through a huge upset in life and my mother-in-law, the grandmother of this young adult, said that she wished there was something – anything – that she could do to make things better for her adult grandchild. She knew there wasn’t, except to be there to offer support, but she went on to say, “I feel so helpless. Things were so much easier when I was young.” This was from someone who was born in 1906. Few people had electricity. There was no penicillin. Cars were just starting to join horses as a means of transportation. Nobody traveled far. She lived through WWI, and raised a family through the Great Depression and WWII. Yet she thought things were easier when she was young. I think she meant less complicated, at least in her view. She was viewing the world of the 1990s from a different perspective than the younger folk of the time. The worldview we form when we’re growing up is the one we’re most comfortable with. We understand the rules of that time, those norms. We learn to work within them, to survive and hopefully thrive within them. One worldview is not necessarily easier than the other, but it’s the lens through which we understand the world.
Some things never change, and advice in those spheres is worth offering regardless of age. The kinds of things mentioned in the George H.W. Bush eulogies today fall in that category. Remembering to be kind. To live with decency, courage, perseverance, and humility. And with good humour. These attributes are ones most of us know deep down are how to live a good life, but often fall short on. Being reminded from time to time is a good thing. It helps us remember not to be too quick to judge. It helps us remember to reach out to others with encouragement, with a helping hand, and with praise. It helps us be part of making the world in which we live a better place. Acting with these attributes in mind makes us better friends, better partners and parents, better colleagues, better community members, and better leaders.
Some things do change with changing times, and advice from one generation to another in these circumstances is not always totally relevant. It is also often not welcome! 😉 Of course, that doesn’t mean we aren’t ready to offer it, but maybe we should just let younger generations learn from their own successes and their own mistakes, just like we did. It takes longer, and it can be a lot more painful than being rescued before you make a mistake, but being rescued before you know you need rescuing isn’t necessarily going to keep you from trying again.
The world in which we find ourselves right now is busier than it needs to be, for no real apparent reason. People are also far more stressed than they used to be, including children, again for no truly apparent reason. Most people would ascribe a lot of this to technology, meaning 24/7 access to the Internet, news, and social media. Interesting, when one remembers that this amazing technology that we have developed ourselves – to serve us – has in many ways ended up controlling our lives. This technology, which was supposed to make the work week shorter and leisure time longer, has produced quite the opposite effect. Many of us are now working pretty well 24/7, technology-enabled. This technology, which was expected by many of the early developers to help level the economic playing field with a slowly but surely changing nature of work, has done no such thing. None of this can be blamed on the technology, after all, we created it! However, for young people whose worldview is being molded and defined within this remarkable yet stress-inducing technology-based world, where everything is available to us all at the touch of our “phones”, their perspective is necessarily going to be different from those of us who came of age in a pre-Internet time.
I love the people I interact with – of all ages – and I certainly use today’s technology to full advantage (although probably for different uses than my grandchildren!). However, I can’t be offering them much advice that they’re going to relate to. They’ll just figure out life’s lessons for themselves, sometimes making mistakes and learning the hard way.
I’ll stick with the advice that we’ve learned today from George H.W. Bush’s funeral: lead your life with kindness, decency, courage, perseverance, and humility. Other than that, I’ll try to mind my own business. I’ll try, really I will!
Photo credits: Discogs, Bizarro