As it does with many people, the expression, “you never forget your first,” has always resonated with me. In fact, just for fun, I often make a game out of thinking up a category and then diving into the memory bank to enjoy or dread the findings of that cerebral search. For example:
• First kiss: sweet, in front of my grandparent’s home
• First time driving with a new driver’s license: WOW, off to the store I went
• First day of college: exciting/scary, Slippery Rock State College
• First love: WOW, again, but I’ll never tell
• First day of teaching, of being married, of being a mom: simply amazing
• First time I lost a loved one: heartbreaking.
We all have these milestones in our life, that is for sure. Recently, though, I was blindsided by a comment made about me during a brief interaction with a stranger. A comment that has become another milestone in my life.
Before I continue with that story, I must write that I am a business owner and professional health, fitness and wellness educator, who has had the great fortune of working on special projects for NuStep, Inc.
Much of this rewarding and stimulating work has been in the field of whole-person wellness and fitness for older adults. My colleagues, in this field, are the most loving and caring people on earth. Those who are on the receiving end, of the services at these communities, are the most appreciative ‘students’ I’ve ever had the privilege of teaching.
Hint of where this story is going:
1. Prejudice or discrimination against persons of a certain age group.
2. A tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention or unsuitable for employment.
One of the missions of those of us in my field is to fight the good fight against ageism. We use our voices and actions to correct crimes of ageism when we see or hear it. We try to set a positive example by our actions as we age, which of course, everyone is doing every day.
As the suspense builds about ”that” comment, I will also tell you that I’ve celebrated my birthday 63 times and I’m expecting to celebrate another 20, 30 or so. I am very physically fit, adventurous, tech savvy and engaged in life. I have causes that I care about and work towards. I have a wealth of family and friends and I have a positive outlook regarding the future.
Here it comes:
I was in the bread isle at the grocery store, deciding between bagels and skinny bagels, when a young woman, talking on her cell phone, walked towards me. I could hear lots of details of her conversation which was sprinkled with giggles, laughter, blushing, etc. (maybe she was reliving one of her ‘firsts that she will never forget!’).
After about 30 seconds, I giggled with her and gave her a little wave. Her reaction? She loudly told her friend, “I JUST MADE THIS LITTLE OLD LADY LAUGH!”
The little old lady she was referring to was ME! Yes, that was the first time that I had heard someone refer to me with that derogatory term. Unfortunately, I was too shocked to comment to her, but of course, I thought of plenty of comments afterwards.
I’ll admit that this experience took some time to settle within me. As much as it stung, I’ve since realized there was value in that experience. It’s taught me a few things about how I view myself, how I view other people and how I hope that other people view me.
As for combating ageism, it starts with being mindful of our own preconceived notions about age, resolving to take a positive stance and working toward removing the negative “isms” in our lives.