Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Generations, Age-ism, and the Difference Between Independence and Dignity

There are times when children want, more than anything, to be a grown-up.

I did.

There was a time when I looked in the bathroom mirror and imagined myself as old. Like maybe 21. That seemed plenty old enough to live the life of independence in my dreams.

I never imagined myself as 50. No one imagines themselves at 50. There isn't a hip, brand clothing store called "Forever 50". My grandfather's surprise 50th birthday party feels like not that long ago (it happened when I was 10). He felt so old then. I thought he was.

I know better now.

Age is relative.

That's something an old person would say, for sure.

Yesterday I talked to a 23-year-old who is hesitant to wait two years for something, because, to her, two years accounts for nearly 1/10th of her life. That's a long time for a 20-year-old. Two years is only 4% of the life of a 50-year-old. It's 2.5% of the life of an 80-year-old with lessening returns every year.

Children want independence and dignity. All humans do, I believe. But there is a subtle but important difference between the two.

Independence is something we declare. Something we take. But, with independence, comes responsibility and pain and waiting and taxes.

Dignity is something we give.

Providing value and worth (dignity) to the people around us, no matter their age or station in life is a gift that contributes to their independence.

50-year-olds and 20-year-olds can and should walk together. I don't believe in generation gaps. Each has value to offer. But, it will only work when both groups declare less independence and give more dignity.