Old people are grumpy. They are less patient. They smell weird. They talk about boring things and have crazy ideas about how the world should be. This is how I always thought about old people. But as I get older, I feel like… I get it. I’m not tired or wore out like I always thought old folks were. I don’t have an abundance of time to drink coffee and fix all the world’s problems by complaining about them as I assumed all the old folks did. But still, I get it.
Seasoned citizens are the way they are… I think… because the world has eroded the relevance of the things they’ve always thought of as valuable, and it comes to appear (to them) as apathy, laziness, and a loss of formality and professionalism. But those participating, creating and shaping culture today see new ideas as either a rejection of the status quo, or a step towards something better than we’ve ever had before. And that has to be right. It has to be. Things have gotten better generation by generation pretty objectively. Health, education, lifestyle. Millions of people have it better now than even the richest of the rich had it 100 years ago in many ways.
So why do I feel myself ready to hop off the wagon train of progress? Just content to put down my roots here with what I know, what I’m happy with, and let that be that. I can attest that it’s literally frustrating trying to wrap my head around why what is new is better sometimes. And I can’t quite understand why.
Last night Andrea was struggling trying to watch a movie. We have a smart TV with Netflix built in. Problem was, every 5 minutes, the Wi-Fi would disconnect. I don’t know what time she finally got it fixed, but it was after I’d gone to bed and fell asleep. All I could think about was how if this had just been on a disc or a tape, we would have just watched a movie, and not been troubleshooting some technological hiccups all night.
But sometimes we remember the past better than it ever really was. Heck probably most times. I can also remember wrapping tin foil around TV antennae and adjusting endlessly trying to get the clearest picture possible, only to have it messed up when somebody else walks into the room and blocks your signal, all that effort to watch the ONLY thing on TV. As opposed to the thousands of choices available now on demand.
As I get older, it feels like people are willing to accept less and less quality, but in reality I suppose we’re really getting more than ever before. At work the past few days I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to get a College Football Pick ‘Em contest put together on our website. My company entered into an agreement with another company to provide a web platform to facilitate the contest. Problem was, no matter what we did, it looked like crap. Just plain awful. I tried everything and finally called the provider when I admitted defeat and couldn’t get it to look good. Their response was, “I don’t know. It looks pretty great to me!” I couldn’t help but in that moment think… they really find this acceptable? They’re really OK with this? Actual real humans look at this ugly off center, non-screen fitting disaster and think, well… nothing. It’s just… normal.
What I’ve thought about between that moment and now, is that while it wasn’t pretty… it facilitated something that in the past would have been pretty impossible. In days gone by, if you wanted to do the same contest, you would have had to print up entry forms. Distribute those entry forms to people who wanted to play. They’d have to go to a physical place to get them. They’d have to physically return them to you. Then it would be up to them to keep track of the contest on their own while they “play along from home”. Then all the entries and results would have to be counted by hand, hours and hours of people time. Where as now the contest is instantly distributed up to an infinite number of people, who can all play on devices that they already own, and get results in real time. All automatically. I guess if you put it that way, who cares what the magic carpet looks like? It freakin’ flies!
But I valued the presentation. I valued qualities of the experience that were important to me. And I left feeling frustrated wanting to retreat back to something that reinforced my values. But going back isn’t an option. For one, as mentioned before, the past as we remember it more often than not was not a place that ever actually existed anyway. But also the energy required to keep those old ideas alive requires more and more energy the farther away you get from them. Like trying to keep a Model T running in the year 2017. But I also don’t feel the need to truly embrace the new values, or maybe I’m just taking them for granted. Where I find myself is in a place of acceptance. That the world now “is what it is” and there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it.
But where do you find joy in a lifestyle of reluctant acceptance? I can see now how it’s easy to slip into the character of a person who’s frustrated, impatient, and apathetic. That’s not who I want to be, old and grumpy… and smelling bad. What I’m working towards is rather… tolerance I guess you could say. It’s a resource that I think you need to recharge once in a while. So I am working on a compromise. To complain less. To push forward more. To be productive. To be positive. However, with the understanding that I’m going to need to retreat away from time to time to recharge. To find those touchstones that reinforce my values and the things that I feel are what make me, me. That I’m still the same person that I’ve always been, and that it’s still OK to be.