Ping Ponging as I Age

“… but I’ve very immature for my age.”
It’s the line I use when asked my age. As I get old, in many ways I haven’t felt it. Waking up on my 30th birthday, it wasn’t like the whole world was different, I was exactly the same. Well, in a few weeks, I would find my metabolism had hit the brakes hard, something I still try to overcome to this day. And the same when I was 40, though such milestones seemed so monumentally… old.
Aging is a bit like looking into a mirror every morning. You don’t notice changes day-to-day, but they happen. Those who don’t see you for a while notice the changes better than you can yourself. Both physically, and mentally and emotionally. Were I locked away from the rest of the work, a proposition that the introvert in me finds tempting, I’m sure I’d still consider myself 18.
But we live among other people, and other people are what are making me feel old. At least as frequently as my “immature” line, I find myself saying “F-ing kids.” (If you watch “Clerks”, there is an old guy who says it in the inflection that I say it in). And I never use it to refer to tots or toddlers or pre-teens or teens… I love kids, and while those groups can be trying at times, it is understandable, so they get a wide pass.
No, the kids I refer to are adults, occasionally older than I am. I work with them, I manage them, I’m occasionally their customer. And I just don’t get them.
“In my day…” I can’t believe how often I at least think that term, thought in a cracking old-man voice. In my day, you went to work, were told what to do, did it, and got paid for it. If I didn’t do it in a satisfactory way, I didn’t need to be employed by them. If I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t have to keep working for them. It is the magic of capitalism.
Now, it seems people want to be congratulated just for showing up. Do their duties as they were supposed to? That’s a future Employee of the Month right there, at least in their mind. Paychecks are deserved before anything is actually done, and doing more than you need to is a fool’s game (and then you are asked why they aren’t getting the promotion or shifts they want).
It leaves me nostalgic for a time I never experienced, a time like the ’40s, when people did their job because that’s what you do. You work in order to get paid. You want to make more, you work harder or do extra. Same if you want to move ahead in a career. Of course, I may be falling prey to the old trap of idealizing a time that didn’t exist exactly like than, such as when Republicans talk about the ’50s as Glory Days for the US, while ignoring what the tax rates were.
So, I find myself bouncing back and forth throughout the day. Talking about Batman; sighing that I found work I was told was done wasn’t. Hoping to get home to play a few minutes of Xbox; cleaning up after adults whose propensity for messes make me fear visiting their homes; cracking up uncontrollably over a well-timed “That’s what she said!”; wanting to clear out the whole staff in the hopes that I can get the right people by rebuilding. Feeling like the dorky kid I was; complaining like a crotchety old man. Frankly, it gets tiring.
There is not a lot to be done about it. I’ve watched people in my business slowly lose any sense of personal responsibility or drive, so it isn’t a particular individual. I can try to cling to the good ones, the ones who are old school in the sense that they want to do their job, but their drive gets sucked out by the slackers just as mine does. Nope, there is no sign the whole of the talent pool, as it were, is going to change, and I’m just going to have to accept that.
The one thing I can do, though, it to hold onto the kid-like nature. Have those moments of goofy fun when I can, and when I can’t, try to get back there as soon as I can. The game of Ping-Pong back and forth can be tiring, I’ll just need to try to make it fun.

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