If they are over-50, we label them as "old."
If they are under-50, we simply shrug them off as "broken," usually by life.
The "old" all share one characteristic. That's sticking with THE script. At some point in their lives they have decided that was the best of times. They keep telling stories, professional and personal, from back then. In science, that is known as a "closed system."
I first encountered this phenomenon when I relocated to Tucson, Arizona. That was April 2014.
For Easter, I treated a former classmate at Seton Hill University, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, to lunch. Her name is Kathleen Huebner. She insisted we dine at her retirement community in Oro Valley, AZ.
I sensed that would be a downer. I knew all about those new kinds of "ghettos" in American society. In fact, I had bunked in one back in New Haven, Connecticut. That experience reinforced in me the determination to continue to work until I passed on to The Great Laptop in the Sky.
But Huebner was the only person I knew in the Southwest. Part of my reason for going there was to embrace adventure. I was positioned and packaged for a fresh start.
At that lunch, I noticed the dots that I would have to connect, if I wanted to write about aging. And navigate the obstacles to getting assignments and jobs after-50.
Huebner's career, as well as those of her neighbors, had been a success. Yet, in retirement, they didn't seem to use that as a platform to establish a stimulating present. And the promise of a satisfying future.
You bet, the conversations seemed to come from set scripts. Within a month I dumped Huebner. In addition, I purged my life of other SHU classmates. I got it: The past was peril.
But, I went on to encounter that same phenomenon in my social circles throughout the Tucson Metro area. Of course, because of generational silos, I was primarily interacting with Baby Boomers and members of Generation X. There were those scripts. No new material would be added.
I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, those who migrate to AZ tend to do so for the no-snow-weather and the lower cost of living. That version of Paradise tends to suck the drive out of folks who had once been strivers.
Soon enough it became obvious that I didn't belong. My preoccupation was retooling my communications boutique for changing times. At the end of August 2016, I returned back east. The struggle here seems to keep us from becoming frozen in the past, no matter what our age.
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