I’m pretty much ignoring Fetlife right now. Because each time I go onto there, I get pissed off by their age discussion. As I told a friend recently, it’s because it triggers me. And for my own sanity, I have had to try to avoid it. But with an upcoming event that I’m responsible for, I am finding my need to be on there more and more. So, instead of making a comment in their space – I will make it in mine.
I was one of those weird kids who graduated high school with a plan for the future. I was going to go to college – get a computer science degree – and move out of Iowa to make my fortune in a funky city. Yep – I did all of that. I even did a few more things – I got some real IT experience in college so that I went out into the big world with some actual experience. Win!
I got a great job – moved to a great city – and was excited to get going with my IT career.
I was young, eager, a hard worker, willing to learn – winning combo, yes?
Yeah – except the young part.
My age was consistently tossed into my face. The 22-year old IT woman sent to fix your problem, corrects it by telling you how you did it to yourself? Oh, you wouldn’t know – you haven’t been in IT long enough to know – what are you…..a few months out of college? Can you legally drink yet?
Ask a question to a peer who provided shitty documentation? And get a response like: “God, I swear people your age just don’t try to figure anything out themselves!” Let’s not point out that their documentation was shit or that I have a time crunch to get something done – not the whole fucking day to figure it out. Nope. It’s youngsters like me who cause the issues for those old folks.
I should also point out that most of my peers were between 30-35 yrs of age. Far from the old folks they liked to pretend to be.
I wouldn’t get invited out with them because, well, I would never understand the things they talk about. So while my peers met at the bar after work to decompress from their day, I went home. Whatever, I would think, why would I want to hang out with old people anyway. Yeah, that was sarcasm.
New people started in IT but in a different group, it could be guaranteed that a comment would be made about my age in the big team meeting. Someone was pissed at my answer – they would go above me because, well, I clearly don’t understand not being as old as they are. I got to the point where I had to work harder and more to prove my value was more than my age.
And it worked. I ended up running the team I was hired into – those idiots worked for me. When I saw some agism going on with the oldest person on the team, I did everything to include her instead of exclude her from opportunities – highlighted her strengths to the team instead of focusing on her weaknesses. She and I formed a bond over it after that – the oldest and the youngest who got shit about our age.
When someone left, I was finally able to hire into my team. Without realizing it, I hired someone younger than I was. He worked his ass off, was like a sponge in terms of soaking up knowledge, and thrived. Another hire was someone older – again, not on purpose but because she was the best fit. And she rocked. My team became diverse instead of this group of people who wanted peers in age over experience.
And that – that right there was my frustration. It never mattered how much I knew. It never mattered how hard I worked. It never mattered that I tried hard to include the team in things. It never mattered if I helped the team. I was always the youngest of the team – very little else was acknowledge – I was Emmy the young woman.
I fought against the female stereotypes in IT. I never expected to have to fight against my age. Hell, I think that was harder than being a woman among men.
Things finally got to a point where age was overlooked. And I was happy about that. Then, my job after that place….
……I was hit with it again.
Being younger than the CIO, doing my job which sadly brought forth requirements from a team that she did not agree with but could not dispute, resulted in her pulling out her lengthy experience – her maturity as a 50 year old woman in IT – and her feeling that maybe my inexperience as a youngster was the problem. “With all due respect, the requirements are not my own. Are we going to address them or are we going to compare resumes?” Yeah, I said that. I was old enough to know not to brush it under the rug. At this point, I had been in IT for 15 years in the corporate world – add in the higher education experience, and I was up to 17 years experience. Yet that counted for nothing. My maturity in handling situations didn’t matter. My experience didn’t matter. If someone didn’t like something I was saying, it was my age that was their hammer.
Fast forward to this current job. I worked on a team of people of various ages – I was far from the youngest. Yet in a discussion with a cohort – a peer – I once got told “that I really don’t understand because, when I get to be her age, I’ll understand why it’s important. But until then, I just wasn’t going to understand her point.” She was 50 at the time, I was 40. Our kids were 8 years apart. I had been married longer than she had. I had all the experience in IT (she had none) – and I had the same experience managing projects as she had.
When I get to be her age, my ass!
And I called her ass on it. “Seriously? You can’t argue your point, so you’re going to pull the age card? Are you fucking kidding me?” I asked, “toss out all of my experience – more experience than you have, I might add, but we won’t talk resumes because you want to fixate on the one thing you have over me – your age.”
At this point, another cohort of ours came over and suggested we end the conversation. Later, the woman who said this came by to apologize only to go straight to the age card – thus reversing her apology. I sent her away. Fuck it. I’m so far beyond talking age that I refuse to even listen to it. And after that, I did look down upon her because she was a bigot, but instead of being intolerant of my race, she was intolerant of my age. Fuck her and her opinions. She showed me her colors.
Because what age has brought me? My intolerance of the age argument. Old? Young? I don’t care. Just do your fucking job! Just be a contributor! Just be open to new ideas! Just learn more than you know today! And just play well with others regardless of age!
So this – THIS is why age triggers me. It pisses me off when people use age – not experience, not anything else – to determine whether or not someone is worthy – worthy of ideas, worthy of opinions, worthy of hanging out with, worthy of being included. Because as someone who has been told that I am an old soul, yet told I’m “too young to understand” more times that I want to count……well, let me just say that age is only a mathematical calculation telling you how many times around the sun you’ve traveled. Nothing more.
And personally, if you want to get all full of your age, I feel sorry for you because, well, those I know who stay out of that headspace, tend to be younger in their actions, their view of the world, and their life. Life hasn’t worn them down – they rode the wave of experience, and looked forward to the next thing – unwilling to settle just because a number seems to tell others to do it.
But I guess I feel this way because I’m lucky to have people in my life that have shown me this time and time again.