Thursday, May 10, 2007

Intergenerational thoughts

Lately I have felt the joys and weight of my generation upon me. I had not thought of it, or rather felt it before because in many things I seemed to be the first in peer group to do certain things. I had a daughter rather young and notwithstanding I finished my education, later I left my family, married an Indian and artist no less) spent time on a different continent and became a widow…
Being first in my group made me feel all this was just part of the randomness of life, never perceiving I was going against the normality of the social clock which dictates when to do what. So I lived I thought as every human being within the joys and sorrows of my life. Until lately.
It all started with meeting a friend of my daughter. He was older than I expected, my age – one year younger- good looking. I could see the young man in him and the man he would become. Talking with him was easy. We understood why decisions had been made this or that way as we knew not so much each others place but each others world at the time of those decisions. We even danced well together, feeling his gentle lead and finding it natural. I was even easier than that because in that war which never was declared and which was Vietnam, we had both ended up behind the same demarcation line that split our generation, although he is a veteran and our lives have been very different. When asked why it had been so easy and fun I heart myself reply because we are the same generation, formed by the same historical context…
The second incident was the early retirement of a colleague, a friend just a few years my senior packing up all her belongings and moving with her girlfriend to Spain.
A group, about 5 of us, had studied at the same school. I had seen her just having past her interpreting exam, buoyantly surrounded by friends and jurors going to the local student cafĂ©. More than ten years later I started working where the other 4 before me had also found a good spot in life. I was taken into the fold. We knew where we came from. Within the small community of 17, we were a distinct although not separate group. Two now have chosen other futures and three are left to hold the fort. It happened that age wise there is a break behind this group, the other colleagues being younger, much younger. This is where I am right now. Realizing for instance that ‘the A. gang’ had a certain weight: we like fun, but yet we are principled, we like a good discussion in which politics is personal and vice versa, most of us outspoken and warm. So I wonder what I have actively to offer now. The younger colleagues do an excellent job. Yet I can see the different life phases they are entering in and what lies ahead of them.
As my daughter, a futures specialist, pointed out to me: my looking back and seeing them with what I know can guide them in seeing their futures. I think that over the years I have learned to pay attention to the personal flux of people and the comprehensive view of the changes at work, for instance not sweating the small stuff. The way my younger colleagues look ahead strangely is also my future, because for some years we will still be working together. Later, when I have worked out kind of a future plan, a flexible program or pliable roadmap for the years after the job, I can see what they have planned to do with the position I hold and thus I will be able to leave eager for the new challenge of having time.
Of course at work we are all equal in the here and now. Yet we know what the “extras” are each one of us has to offer: computer skills for work and private use, specific knowledge about different issues or countries, a specific pleasing morality, an ambitious drive, administrative skills, literary interests, training, ballet and Wagner… So we know whom to turn to when we need information or help and thus once again age is forgotten.
I see my graying hair, I feel the weight harder to fight off and I am eager, as I always was to know and explore places, subjects and people. So this friend’s goodbye touched me with melancholy, made me realize all is well. At least as long as we all stand together undivided by the generational differences, living now, sharing what we must or want and can share. So it comes about that now is good and our tomorrows too.

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