Just like weight on a scale is a numerical representation of a body’s relationship with gravity, age is a numerical representation of a body’s relationship with time. Neither number adequately conveys the inherent health or wisdom of a person. As our readings and panel communicated rather clearly age, and the expected behaviors or social developmental cycles, are being blurred further and further by individuals forging their own path. I have seen this cycle play out many times in many different ways in my life. I will share some to demonstrate how the benefit of time after an event has given me wisdom, regardless of my age.
I have always defied the developmental norms; I had difficulty with certain letters at a young age but never received speech therapy, I was able to read complex novels earlier than my peers, I could quickly demonstrate mastery of a subject without any prior teaching, I had a child early on, I married later than average, and I am finishing school at an older age. All these things have defied societal expectations of when something should or shouldn’t happen. The interesting thing is that no longer do those expectations have as much impact on me as an individual. It could be the expectations are blurring and decreasing because of the more global communities but it could also be because I do not really care. When I gave birth at 16 I definitely cared about how I was viewed by society.
Being a teen parent was not very easy. There were limited resources available to me in the community. I was in an odd position of being an adult (because I was responsible for another life) and yet unable to make adult decisions for myself. An example of this is when I went to get my daughter’s ears pierced. I could give permission for her to get her ears pierced but because I was under 18 I could not give permission for myself to get my ears pierced. I am pretty sure that choosing labor and parenting gave me the ability to decide a medical decision of piercing my own ears…but because the law says 18 I had to wait. I have no idea if at that time 16 year olds could make legal medical decisions in the state of Oregon as they can now.
As a parent who has parented very young and had a child as an older adult I can say that the most valuable thing that I have had is time. I have had time to educate myself on different parenting styles. I have had time to look back on my parenting and decide what I did and did not like. I am no longer a physical and authoritative parent, which really makes my older children uncomfortable. I think that wisdom can be looked at as a reflection of time and bettering ones self. The process does not look like any cookie cutter expectation nor can it be quantified by x amount of successes. Conversely I do not think that attaining wisdom around certain life experiences automatically designates someone as wise.
I have an eight year old whom I would say is very wise, yet he does not follow societal expectations of what is right or appropriate. Ever since he was young he has been very open and honest. He has shown a strong propensity to not respecting authority just because someone is older. This is very uncomfortable and very liberating. It is uncomfortable because I have to change my belief that children should behave a certain way towards adults. It is liberating because he has a lot of confidence in social situations that I do not have. What is consistent in him is that he respects people who respect him. It does not matter if they are old or young. It is freeing to approach people focusing on mutual respect instead of informal communication rules.
Informal communication rules are the rules that bound me from making waves or cowtowing to authoritarian roles. Right now this battle looks like elementary schools that are becoming less individualistic and more focused on boxed roles. This is really relevant to me because of a lecture I attended on aging. My biggest take away was an activist’s goal of getting arrested for civil disobedience this year. I really enjoyed the panel, especially hearing from the activist. Her statement of, “What are they going to do to me? Take away my social security? They already are!” really reignited the social advocate in me. All in all, wise or not, that is what I think will impact others. Being the type of person who advocates for justice and equality for all. This is not anything a numerical representation will ever adequately convey.