Once I was chatting with someone who mentioned their aversion for hanging around old people. By old people, he meant those aged 60 and above. “What would we talk about?” He added. This individual just couldn’t fathom being stuck in the same space as a senior citizen for too long. His thinking—they were generations apart—so there’s really no point of intersection in their realities that would make for interesting conversation. I smiled, then reminded him that he would most likely be in the position of the older person one day and wondered how he’d feel if some youngster said the same thing he had just voiced.
And while my acquaintance wasn’t exactly derisive with his comments, his countenance captured the disposition many youngsters have towards the older generation—a condescension—an air of superiority. This may seem fallacious in these climes where we are raised to respect and revere elders, but it’s not. It’s an ironic reality. The strength, vigour and flexibility time affords the youth produces haughtiness sometimes. After all, he is at that stage in life where he can take on many things an oldie dares not attempt. And even if he bungles opportunities, there’s that factor again: time, that is still kind to him.
When debut author, Tomi Adeyemi rashly took on her far older and more experienced counterpart, Nora Roberts on the streets of Twitter, it was a classic display of youthful recklessness. And as she would later have admitted to herself, the unfortunate incident should never have made it to social media if she had only paused to establish contact with Nora or her representatives or asked for legal advice before going to town with her accusation.
While an uneasy truce may have been reached, I would hardly be surprised if the matter led to an untoward happening in the near future. In all of the furore that followed the incident, however, what has bothered me the most is some of the remarks that have been made. Some of Tomi’s fans have rubbished the idea that Nora, a widely acclaimed best-selling novelist who has been writing for over three decades and has more than 200 books to her credit deserves respect from the new author.
Their argument: Tomi is coming into her own too, and with the massive success “Children of Blood and Bones” has recorded, she’s well on her to becoming a legend too. “Nora’s response is condescending!” They cry, and Tomi should not have to apologise for calling her out, even though the former explained (and has proof) that her book had been written and sent to the publishers before Tomi’s.
I am unflinching in my belief that respect should be earned. It lasts much longer that way. Respect should not be a function of age difference on the grand scale of human interactions. Nevertheless, I also believe there’s a place for according people respect on the basis of their age and achievements. And before you protest that people should not be honoured merely for being older, I’ll ask you if you would speak to your friend’s mother the same way you would speak to your friend.
It should be a no-brainer that a sexagenarian who has invested half of her life in a profession and excelled spectacularly at it deserves more than a scintilla of acknowledgement. But a largely “woke” generation who are stuck on self-aggrandisement would argue otherwise. There’s a reason people who come into stardom at an early age almost always self-destruct. It’s the folly of youth. The erroneous belief that they are better and smarter than their parents.
Make no mistake, youth is beautiful. At no other time does one enjoy a steady burst of energy, creativity and spunk to explore life than when they are young. From the physical to the psychological, the possibilities that accompany youth are endless. But that’s where it ends. Youth doesn’t translate to immortality. And sadly, no one can be young forever. We will all age— we will all grow older—whether we like it or not. And when we do, we sure do not want to be dismissed because of a natural occurrence we have no control over.
Many times, young people forget this. They are carried away by the allure of a life that isn’t encumbered by the several things older people have to contend with. The wistful reminiscence of younger years, the failing health and the loneliness that comes with advancement in years are alien to the twenty-something or thirty-something year old. It’s why they are wont to ageism.
A wise young person knows it is only but a matter of time before he is in the stead of the one he only yesterday despised. All that energy will wane with time. The energy to take on ten things a flurry of activities will whittle down. Boundless optimism will give way to a knowing caution because age and experience would have taken their toll.
It’s inevitable, and while not taking away the qualities that make young people special, those in this category must quickly realise that youth isn’t tantamount to invincibility.
Like every other phenomenon, youth is fleeting. Here today, gone tomorrow.