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Redefining our place in society

Posted in Life & Love

I noticed the “For Sale” sign on one of my runs. The neighbours, in their 60s, after over two decades in the canyon, were calling it quits.

On a walk with the dogs, I mused to my husband that, with some of the old neighbors moving out, our likelihood of striking friendships with their replacements was extremely low. I said that while passing the house now inhabited by a couple in their 30s, with three small children, three annoying dogs and three goats. Right across from them, what felt like a commune of 20-somethings had taken up residence, a jumble of cars at all hours that possibly indicate the headquarters of a start-up.

We live in a semi-rural area, where people still own horses and very much rely on their neighbours, because natural calamities are always around the corner: mudslides, road closures, wildfires (and the big E) are all par for the course of living here. I write this as helicopters fly over my roof, ferrying water back and forth to the site of a fire that started a couple of days ago. The main road is closed and, when the fire broke, I was at work. My closest neighbor texted me and then kept me abreast of the situation over the course of the evening so I would know which way to attempt to get back home. That is what we do.

But the more old-timers move out and new faces, with different lives and different needs move in, the more it feels less like the community I fell in love with over a decade ago. I routinely have to dodge Teslas and BMW’s on my daily dog walks, tearing up at ridiculous speeds, and this all conspires to make me feel passe. I used to make fun of my parents for being so out of touch but now I am wondering if it’s not happening to me.

The thought of venturing into Santa Monica makes me cringe: between the tourists, the top-knot and scraggly beard accessorized hipsters and the Silicon valley techs who have colonized most of Venice and Santa Monica, I don’t recognize either place anymore or, rather, I don’t recognize myself in those places and I am feeling nostalgic for the hippies of old.

The same dynamic plays itself out at the college I am attending. Of the nearly 40 people in the class, there is one person older than me – bless her heart, she doesn’t even know she makes my day every time I see her. Everyone else is very young, including the instructor. I love him, and I love the class but I can tell how the subject is taught to appeal to a younger audience, with cultural references that I am happy to explore but am not entirely familiar with.

Our professor is big on group activities and, when the time comes every week to pair up, nobody rushes up to me. So I am left to force myself on wide-eyed and wrinkle-free youngsters who, slowly, are warming up to the crazy lady they can’t quite understand what is doing there in the first place. I am thoroughly amused.

Conversely, age works to my advantage in my learning process: I am not afraid to raise my hand, ask questions and maybe look stupid. I am way past caring what others think. Often, when the instructor asks questions and the class goes silent, I will be the one to speak up and break the ice everyone else will wade into, eventually. If nothing else, they must love me for that.

And that brings me to the point I am trying to wrap my head around. As the world shifts from being centered around me, my youth, my drive, my ideas, and age forces me to move to the periphery, I am left to redefine my role in society. I am not sure yet of the role age is pushing me into, but I hope it’s not irrelevance.

Maybe I should look at it as yet another journey, another exciting chapter before the final coda, the one where I am planning to be the eccentric old lady in funny hats, surrounded by dogs, still giving the world at large a hard time.

 

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19 Comments

  1. Mi sono ritrovata moltissimo nelle tue parole, sebbene per me si parli già di molto tempo fa. Il bello del tempo che passa è che si impara a goderselo 🙂

    August 3, 2017
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    • Anche la saggezza che si acquisisce e’ un dono da non sottovalutare.

      August 3, 2017
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  2. I don’t know if the answer will make itself evident or just kind of sneak up on you. These things tend to sneak up on me perhaps with a little self-nudging in the general direction. But either way, “Way past caring what others think” is a fine and solid place to take a breather and contemplate what’s ahead. Irrelevance isn’t on the signpost though.

    July 13, 2017
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  3. Val du Toit
    Val du Toit

    Sorry Claudia. My email shot off before completed. Please ignore. My IPad has been playing up. It wasn’t a great comment anyway..I was going to edit it and can’t get it back. Hope the fire is under control. Best, Val

    July 4, 2017
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    • Fire is under control. Your comments are always valid and very welcome. I had no idea you were in your late 80s – I imagined you to be about 70. You are my new role model!

      July 5, 2017
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  4. Val du
    Val du

    Most people my age (I’ll be 89 in September) don’t give a hoot what the younger folk think, say, or do.in any case, I’ve always been out of step with my peers. I was pushed two classes ahead of my age group soon after I started school, merely because I had been taught to read when I was four. So when I was still playing with dolls, my classmates were talking about their boy-friends.
    I became a happy loner and now, a happy sociable but still independent oldie, alternately amused and horrified by the anti

    July 4, 2017
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  5. As someone who never felt she fit in regardless of age, I can relate to this. I’m in my 30s but find myself not understanding a lot of modern references, since I don’t watch public television or listen to public radio (apart from Classic FM, but I don’t think Bach counts). If before it wasn’t something I felt bothered with, now I do feel it might be a sign I’m slowly starting to lose touch with the youngsters…

    Well done for not being intimidated by your classmates. I really think college would be much better taken at a later stage in life, when we stop caring about what others think and are ready to take the lessons seriously. I’d love to take a textiles course and I know I’d be paying attention this time around!

    Stay safe! Keep your pups safe too, and take a photo of your neighbours’ goats if you can, I’d love to see them.

    July 4, 2017
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    • Not caring what people think is the most liberating feeling. If only we could master it at 17! Will try and sneak a pic of the goats on my next walk (once the heatwave abates…)

      July 5, 2017
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      • If we could, then the world would be ours at that age… what a scary notion!

        Please do, I love goats. In fact, my blog post tomorrow is going to have one in it 😀

        July 6, 2017
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    • The article was right on point. Part of the reason we started the blog was that we couldn’t find ourselves in any of the print magazines peddled to women our age. Things are slowly changing. I definitely don’t feel middle aged and, aside from misplacing things and being as blind as a bat when I have to read without glasses, I am just as busy as I was twenty years ago. And having as much fun.

      July 5, 2017
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  6. winstonmoreton
    winstonmoreton

    The lack of regard by youth for age and wisdom is maybe payback for when we were young. Talking for myself of course

    July 4, 2017
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    • Maybe. Although I was always more drawn to older people than to children. I remember spending long afternoons chatting with my mom’s friends.

      July 4, 2017
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  7. Oh my word, you describe that college class so perfectly! I did a uni course in my early forties and discovered that I was the oldest person in the class. Fortunately some of our lecturers were in my age group and when they mentioned something from our era I was the only one who “got” it. A sea of young bewildered faces didn’t think I was so old and crazy after that, and it was a good feeling.

    As for neighbours, don’t get me started. We have a group of youngsters renting the house opposite and they drive us crazy with their cars parked haphazardly all over the place, on both sides of the road, leaving nowhere for our visitors to park outside our house. I think there are four people in their house but they seem to have at least seven cars, only one of which fits in their short driveway.

    Their garbage bin always overflows on rubbish-collection day and spews its contents when picked up. These youngsters take their bin back inside their yard but never bother to pick up the debris left behind around it. Guess whose garden it blows into…

    July 4, 2017
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    • See? we are becoming those old people complaining about the younger neighbors! I am stuck in a class where the instructor is 32. I respect his knowldge but sometimes I wonder if my questions are not a bit beyond him…

      July 4, 2017
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  8. Even in the city, too many old-timers are moving out and being replaced by trendy millennials who ‘keep in touch’ via NetDoor or other apps. You just have to wad through all their snowflake posts about strange noises in the night to find out where and if the neighborhood is under siege. Give those ‘young-un’s’ hell in class and show them how brilliant you are!
    P.S. Hope you stay safe especially during the wild fire season. It looks bad from what I can tell and these crispy critter temps don’t help.

    July 3, 2017
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    • Don’t ge me started on NextDoor. A neighbour convinced me to sign up. After a week I was so fed with all the stupid emails about ridiculous things that, instead of changing the settings, I just closed the account!

      July 4, 2017
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      • I know exactly what you mean. At first I thought what a cool idea then the millennial crowd found it and took it over. Ugh 😑

        July 4, 2017
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