I am sure you have heard about ageism. It is how we view other people by stereotyping them and discriminating certain groups based on their age.
I know I am guilty of doing this myself, since the earliest time I remember. I think I was about five or six years old when I started developing my own biases and how I viewed peers slightly older than myself and grown-ups. At my tender age of four and a half, in my own little world, there were two types of people, young and old. Young people were kids and teenagers. Kids my age were my peers, little people I had lots of fun with, and teenagers were people I looked for an inspiration. I frequently admired my older teenaged acquaintances, whom I considered so much wiser than myself. Anyone else, beyond teenaged age, was considered old and dull. I had no interest in these people except my grandma.
You would think that a five year old did not have much to say about grown-ups, but I can assure you the little person I once was, I already held plenty of opinions. I was pondering how can a grown-up dedicate their life to one person, a spouse? Waking up each morning to the same person, coming back home and seeing the same person at their dinner table every evening. The world was full of interesting people, why would you bind yourself to anyone? My little five year old brain could not comprehend that, but you can’t really blame a little girl for having no interest in older folks, except her own peers. I simply could not envision that kind of life in the future, as I had no interest in that in the present.
As a young child myself, I did not think of myself as a kid, but someone with the mind of my own, whose ideas weren’t foolish or immature. I was my own little person with my own thoughts, feelings and ideas; I was determined to live my life to the fullest.
I loved being outside all the time, I hanged around with other kids who lived in our neighbourhood. We played ‘gluchy telefon’ game, (*deaf telephone) when kids gathered and sat in the line. Someone started whispering the story to the ear of the kid next to them, and that kid would pass the message in the whisper to the next person, and so on, so forth. By the time it reached the last kid, the final message was revealed. It never resembled the original story. We laughed at ourselves silly and at our own errors.
There were many games we participated in, another one was called One, Two, Three, Baba Yaga Is Looking. The Baba Yaga person was facing the group of kids with her back, and while she was reciting the words ‘one, two, three’, the kids were running towards her, but when she said, that she was looking, she turned around and we had to freeze in the position we found ourselves in. We struggled to remain motionless and frozen in time. If you were not able to remain in your position, while she was examining you, you were considered a loser and were excluded from participating in the next game, you felt ostracized, and that was the worst punishment.
We used to live in a high-rise building at one time, and my father used to come down around 7 pm to retrieve his kid. When I saw him standing there, I immediately was annoyed at his presence, as I knew it was the end of my play time. I would motion towards him with my hand signalling to wait and shouted ‘five minutes’! He stood patiently waiting for me, and after five minutes passed I shouted again: ‘ten minutes!’ I was hoping he would just disappear. Poof! And be gone. These negotiations never ended well, and I was coming back home in tears, complaining at my father’s interruption of my exciting kid’s evening life.
If you’ve never been hated by your child, you’ve never been a parent.”― Bette Davis
My most vivid recollection of my early life came from the time our family lived in the apartment building in Gdansk-Oliwa in Poland. I remember my mother told me a story of mama-magpie making a porridge for her brood of babies magpies. She took my little hand and motioned circles on my little hand palm describing mama-bird cooking a meal and then she pointed to each of my little five fingers representing each baby-bird, and recited in Russian, ‘she gave the porridge to this one, and this one’, and when she arrived at my last finger, she said: ‘she didn’t give to this one, and she flew away.’
There was no morale in the story, other than depiction how birds randomly behaved, but there was rhythm and poetry woven in the simple words. Until this day, I can still recite these kids’ stories in Russian although I do not speak the language. My mother was learning Polish language at the time, but was telling me children stories in her own mother tongue.
I was 4 and a half when my parents told me I was going to have a sibling. I asked my father if it will be a boy or a girl, and he confidently responded it will be a boy, although he had no way of knowing such thing at the time, it was 1969. In spite of viewing grown-ups as dull, I trusted they knew more than I did in my own little life of four and a half. I believed my father, but argued with him, it will be a girl, as I dreamed of a baby sister and a bosom friend.
When my brother was born, I remember we brought him home from hospital, he was all wrapped up in blankets and laid on our eggplant colour Hungarian sofa in the living room. I took one glance at a newborn and exclaimed: ‘Pinocchio!’ and moved on with my little life. I was watching many kids stories and my new baby brother reminded me of the character I recalled from Disney film production. That was my first encounter with my sibling. Later, when Christopher grew up, he loved to entertain kids. He was the real Sagittarius, lived unconventional life in his youth.
“Motherhood: the days are long, but the years are short”Gretchen Rubin
As the time was passing and I was growing up I became aware of passage through time, and I understood no one is going to remain a kid forever. My parents, especially my mother was preoccupied with our age, and secretly was hoping we will remain kids for as long as possible. Adults had their own ideas and preferences and problems that came with adult life.
When I got little bit older, she attempted to shape me into a mould to meet society expectations of a young woman. She was insinuating in subtle ways, that woman should have her children before the age of thirty. The woman’s main role is to care for her children, run the household and look after her husband. I never really identified with that role and felt like she was talking to someone else rather than me. I had more ambitious plans, than mending men’s socks by the dimmed light on winter evening. I always loved young children and hoped I would have a family of my own one day.
My mother had strong calling to motherhood and was the Queen of the Household. She was the best cook and the best mom I have known as a kid. When I was coming home on Fridays and we were starting the weekend, she would spend the whole evening in the kitchen cooking the most elaborate dishes for our family.
I should also add, my mother wasn’t just a pushover, a subservient woman or submissive to my father, quite contrary, I heard them often arguing passionately about him sitting and watching television, instead of vacuuming or spending time with his kids. She would say to me, man is the head of the family, but don’t forget the woman is a neck that moves the head. She was also very intelligent and educated woman, she was trained engineer and so was my father. The difference between them was that she was dedicated to her family, while he was dedicated to his career. These were very different times and different relationship dynamics than we witness today.
Whenever I was reaching certain milestone, she would always remind me how old I was, even when I turned only nineteen, she would lament I was already that age. One could detect some panic in her voice. So, I think early on I became more aware of the time passing and felt pressured instead of living my life at ease and explore my youth. I felt much older than my actual age was, and very early in my life, I often felt it was already very late.
Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90.Yoko Ono
When I turned thirty years old, I realized then, that what I think of an age it is my own human construct, time is unreal, and all I have is now. I wanted to return to school and pursue art degree in my early thirties, but my rational mind would sometimes take over and I heard this nagging voice in my mind, that I was too old for that. For what? For doing what I love? You are never too old for that, another voice in my head argued back. I quickly realized that in four years time, I still will be the age that I will be whether I decide to enter the college or not. My age would be the same, but my life experience and who I would become depended on action I take now.
I decided to completely let go off the concept of age and time construct, and during the next four years, I was a kid again, and ACAD (Alberta College of Art & Design) was my playground. I decided to completely live in the moment. I loved my elective courses, playing with clay in ceramic studio, hand-building the rooster, exploring different glazers. My other splendid times were spent in the printmaking studios. It is when I discovered I enjoyed etching and drawing and was pretty gifted in this area. I also discovered I loved writing and had pretty analytical mind. These experiences helped me to build more confidence and explore that side of myself as an artist, the one who tells stories in pictures and in writing. Prior to entering ACAD I always felt conflicted within myself about pursuing a creative field, because both my parents had pretty scientific mind, and being their offspring, I thought creativity may not have been passed on to me in genes. Of course, I was wrong about it, we are all artists, as Piacasso famously noted, but we forget this when we grow up.
Our thoughts determine our age.Yoko Ono
Today I am 56 years old, and I have no intention hiding my age, if I live a long life, and one day I turn 100 years old, I will stop telling everyone how old I am, but now, I am like a woman in a poem of Wislawa Szymborska, ‘I am young, as usual young, as always still young’ (Portrait of A Woman).
Youth is ageist. Nobody can blame young people for seeing age as something to be feared and worried about, but we all are going to get there if we are lucky enough to live long life. In my fifties, I had another revelation, that is although life is often viewed as short, it can also be long. How can one live well and meaningfully with all this time on our hands?
You must put the effort and lots of willingness and believe in your own abilities, and create an action plan, and keep pushing through the field, build the life you want. Why should we stop living fully and freely because we have reached mature age? How boring and prosaic this sounds? For a long time, I always felt like sharing my own ideas about life with others, and this is why I started writing my own blog. Recently, I have been thinking, I may start writing a book one day. Writing a blog is just flexing a muscle.
Please share with me in the comments below, what would you like to do with the rest of your life, any secret dreams you would like to pursue, but you have never told anyone, in fear of being ridiculed and laughed at. What is stopping your from pursuing your dreams at whatever stage of life you are at? The truth is, no one knows how much time anyone has left. To live in the now is the only answer.
“When you’re fearful of aging, you don’t step into your full power and potential.”Bonnie Marcus