My boomer daughter thinks I should spend time traveling. After all, isn’t traveling and taking life easy what “old” people are supposed to do? You’ve seen the TV commercials for river cruises that promise exposure to all kinds of cultural treasures in exotic places. She thinks that’s ideal. I look at those happy old people enjoying themselves and think, “get a job — your brain is turning to mush”. (Yes, I understand how harsh that sounds.)
I have no interest in traveling, or seeing cultural treasures. I am my own cultural treasure. The year we went to Rome I couldn’t wait to go home. Between pickpockets and non-stop graffiti that marred beautiful old buildings, it was a stressful experience. My daughter thinks Thailand would be an interesting place to visit. Yeah, I suppose so, until a tsunami hits and you get washed out to sea or there is a 10.2 earthquake. I’d rather take my chances surviving an earthquake here in the People’s Republic of California.
Truth is, I am a boring workaholic. Just give me my computer, preferably with two screens so I can multi-task, some exciting new software to learn and problems to solve and I’m a happy camper. Yes, balance in one’s life is ideal, but one woman’s balance is another woman’s boredom. When asked how I stay “so young” I sometimes reply it’s stress and aggravation that keeps my brain fired up. Nobody gets it because we’ve been conditioned to believe stress is a killer. Maybe so, but there is good stress and bad stress. Stress is good when you have a perverse enjoyment of what’s causing the stress.
My point in telling you this is that my daughter’s assumptions and expectations for “old” people is a reflection of cultural assumptions, expectations and attitudes about “old” people that simply refuse to change. With few exceptions, our culture refuses to accept that times have changed; people are living longer and the tradition of old people passing time playing cards, bingo and shuffleboard, or mindlessly traveling, or playing non-stop golf just doesn’t cut it anymore. And, because outdated assumptions and expectations persist, we have a plethora of decrepit old people who have done what the culture expected them to do and they are paying the price for not challenging cultural norms. You can’t spend your “golden years” without testing your mind and body on a regular basis and not expect to experience decline. Leisure activities and mind-numbing entertainment are not challenging. Like it or not, we are made for work.
Now mind you — my daughter is a boomer. In no time at all, her children will be saying to her, “Mom, you should quit the real estate business and take it easy and travel — go to Thailand.” In her case, she would probably say, “Yes. that’s a great idea. I love to travel.” But would she do it? Probably not.
I’ll bet that when her kids think it’s time for her to do what “old” people are expected to do, being older and wiser, she won’t appreciate their suggestions because she has a brain that is larger than a peach pit and would probably want to continue working real estate deals (or, in her case, supervising others who do deals). And, she might be annoyed that her kids are encouraging her to do what is expected of her at “her age” but she is not ready to do at “her age.” I can assure you — nothing is more annoying than having people who don’t know what they are talking about, who don’t know what’s going on in your head — nothing is more exasperating than when they tell you what you should be doing “at your age”.
Of course, “at my age” I could be wrong about all of this, but probably not. As my favorite cartoon character Yogi Bear (who was too stupid to know he was stupid), used to boast, “Hey Hey Hey! I’m smarter than the average bear!”