Helen English Artist
Act your age!
This phrase came back to me after something which happened this week as a result of all of the political events in New Zealand, which were precursors and results of the election here a week ago. A young candidate in the election was stretching her political legs, having been told “All you young people…” by someone who had categorised her as someone who didn’t care to put effort in to achieve her goals. She had reacted by unthinkingly doing the same about an older group, and everyone felt aggrieved.
It got me thinking about the diversity of the people who I know who are my age. I would say that there are obviously similarities in the group I socialise with because, like everyone, I tend to mingle with people who I get on with and have things in common. However, even within that group there are a lot of differences. I say that in a political sense – I have wildly different views to some of my friends – and also in the sense of how I live my life day to day. I do not have a simple nine to five job. I do not have aspirations of achieving certain goals before I retire in the next couple of decades or going on luxurious holidays once we can travel. I am also quite unsocial. I enjoy talking to people but I can equally shut myself away for weeks at a time and am quite happy doing that. I choose to work as an artist and a tutor because it makes me happy, and I live my life according to that maxim because that type of daily lifestyle is the answer for me. Some of my friends feel the same way and others feel that they have worked hard, and enjoyed themselves doing it, and holidays and houses reflect their hours of toil. Quite right! There’s nothing wrong with that and if we weren’t all different then it would be a very monosyllabic world to live in. In terms of where I thought I would be, and what I thought I would or should be doing at my age, I really haven’t turned out to be the person who I thought age would make me! I am actually just an evolved version of my younger self. Now doing what I didn’t dare do when I was in my twenties or my thirties…I’ll stop there!
My point is that no one would guess which side of the political or social or wealth fence I sit on if they met me in a professional setting. If they asked a few questions, I would be happy to tell them what I think, but the old maxim of “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is spot on. And I would say that a speed read of that book wouldn’t necessarily tell you everything either. I certainly don’t think that my age would say anything about how I felt. I am also absolutely positive that I have made assumptions about other people, assuming that they believe something which they don’t. So, I have set myself a challenge to ask a few more questions, and make less assumptions, when I meet people and work on finding out something interesting and different about them. If nothing else, it might make me more sociable!