Teenagers think they know everything, yet they know almost nothing about life. They are barely educated and lack even the smallest morsels of life’s experience. They think their parents are old and out of touch. They truly believe they can do everything in life better. This isn’t a shocking revelation, but just the normal growth progression of life.
In a short 4 years or so, they will garner the coveted Bachelor’s degree and in a few more years, they may even have more framed wallpaper for their office. This is a dangerous time for them. They have been convinced, through teachings and titles, that they actually know stuff. And to some degree that’s true. They know stuff that other people know, but they haven’t discovered anything on their own, they lack the practical experience of life.
It’s only after a few years in the workplace that they discover how much they didn’t know and how that must have appeared to everyone around them. They grin sheepishly at the thought, a little embarrassed perhaps, and then slowly they become us.
Around this time in my life, I began to notice a mild melancholy around my father. He never said anything about it, but it was there. Perhaps if he had talked to me about it I would have been more prepared for what was to come. That melancholy was the gradual realization of his irrelevance in the world.
I was working hard, supporting a family, and not interested in anything he might have to say about the business world I then occupied. In his day, he was a genius in the business world. In his day. Those words are the essence of our life’s experiences. My work was largely with the Department of Defense and I used that excuse to ignore all business discussions with him. There were countless business subjects that I could have learned from him, but I was too proud, to independent, or too stupid to ask. I was 26 when he retired at 62.
Now I am retired. With every year out of active experience, my knowledge becomes dated and stale. Expressions like ‘we don’t do it like that anymore’ or ‘there is new technology for that’ permeate every conversation. Yet, I do try to keep up, if only for my own education. However, I am always treated with a smile and a shake of the head when the young ones, who seem to know so much, can’t drive to Grandma’s house without activating the ‘popup-navi’ or a fully charged cell phone or tablet.
So what does ‘retired’ mean? I was tired before and now I’m tired again? Superficially, it means you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it. But it all starts with one very big decision; you give up your place in the workforce. You give up access to the cutting edge in your chosen field. You do this voluntarily in most cases. So, what are you complaining about? Not complaining exactly, just realizing the profound sadness of it all. The same melancholy that my father felt. The concept that much of the knowledge gained through life’s experience, his and now mine, will be wasted and buried.
It is the way of things. It is up to the young to learn and experience life for themselves. They will take ownership of many of the same mistakes and successes that we did and will probably progress further, faster, and higher. Now we can only watch and hope that we did enough for them to help them succeed in life.