I find myself again compelled to revisit last months topic dated August 17, “Attention/Employment Deficit”. It is a much larger issue for many of us, on both personal and societal levels. It involves an emerging cultural trend, one that is dictated by the economic political partnership as are most cultural trends are these days. The present movement unabashedly favors conformity. Like the cycles of the stars and the seasons, humankind weaves it’s way into, through and out of various seasons and stages. The conformity cycles are always uncomfortable for me; this one feels absolutely frightening.
I suppose my age may intensify my sensitivity. I know more, I analyze with greater discernment and skepticism. More significantly, I am less adaptable. My strategical options for coping with the popular trend, whether they be to cooperate or to rebel, seem be diminishing at a rate equal to the rise of restriction and control. There are within society itself, fewer options available. There was a time when it was much easier to make a living by “doing your own thing”. And if you did work for someone else there was more job security, generally better benefits and in many industries, room for creative development. Ideas from staff were welcomed and sometimes actually taken into consideration. This was especially true in the non-profit sector where many agencies were still operating by the grassroots community organizing principles upon which they were originally founded. Now, due to stricter regulations and expectations demanded by funding sources most of these agencies management style and atmosphere have become more corporate, less personal.
As the workplace has changed there are also increasing internal limitations. If you are over 50 and you tell someone you’re looking for work 8 out of 10 people will shake their heads in some sort of ironic sympathy. If you are lucky enough to get hired you’d better keep your mouth shut, follow the rules to the ‘t’ and for heaven’s sake do not by any means get sick.
The problem is the older you get the less likely you are to hold your tongue and take someone’s nonsense (especially if they are younger than you) and if you do hold your opinions inside you are more likely to experience stress related illness. That’s 2 out of 3 “do not do in the workplace if you are over 50”
Frankly, I am too tired and achy to work a 40 hour week, I could do it but I’d do little else. That’s how life is for most of my middle aged working friends. I’m pretty certain I don’t want to live that way.
I have lots of Utopian ideas about opportunities for people my age. Industries could hire us as Mentors for example. Using our experience to break in the next generation. Unfortunately it seems, based on anecdotal evidence, that many industries do not want fresh young minds corrupted by the crazy anarcho-syndicalist tree hugging whimseys of a generation out of time.
“So there we were all in one place, a generation lost in space” to quote Don McLean, and although the next line states that “there’s no time left to start again”, I have to believe that there is. We have to carve out our niche in society, because no one else is going to do it for us. We either adapt to the changes and conform, or we adapt around the changes and clear our own path.
Guess which road I’m taking?
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard
“American Pie” Lyrics by Don McLean © Universal Music Publishing Group