More on Patience

Because you are all brilliant and are keeping the comment thread going on John Kass’s column*, there’s something I want to ask, in all sincerity:

Is there an age after which you no longer have to grow and change and work and learn?

Because like 90 percent of the frustrating conversations I have with my fellow rapidly-approaching-middle-age humans revolve around how they’ve never learned a skill or changed an opinion and they think it’s cute not to have done so.

I’m not saying you have to WANT to text, or code, or spend all day playing Candy Crush on Facebook (fuck you, Doc, for sucking me into that game) or do deep thinking about politics or whatever, but the thing that drives me absolutely up a goddamn wall all the time is this idea that not growing, not learning, not changing, is in and of itself a virtue that age allows you to claim.

I used to tell the newspaper kids I worked with that I was too old to text, just call me, my fingers don’t work like that. Well, that was not, shall we say, a sustainable viewpoint if I wanted to communicate with the world in 2013. So now I text. Badly, but I do it.

And maybe I just know too many people who are in their 7th and 8th and 9th decades, who have never seen discrimination as a permissible thing, who have always embraced new ways of doing things, who when faced with something they don’t know about have dived into it, who have not wished for the world to wait for them but have hurried to keep up with the world. Maybe that’s skewing my view here. Maybe we all get tired. Maybe I will too. But I hope not.

I’m asking.


*I’m predicting, right now, that the next column is nothing but quotes from people calling him a horrible bigot, and just proving his point. Would love to be wrong.

18 thoughts on “More on Patience

  1. I do software tech support so I have this pinned on my wall:
    I’ve had far more conversations than I care to think of where I ask someone to find a document on their machine, or to access a server that they use EVERY SINGLE DAY, and the phone just goes quiet on their end. I had one guy whom I gave instructions to check for the existence of a specific file in our product, and he sent me a screenshot “proving” that it wasn’t there. In the screenshot, he had his caps lock key on (Mac OS X Terminal commands are case-sensitive) and he misspelled the name of the file!
    Most of the people I deal with are my age or younger; I’ll admit that I was a relatively early adopter for internet use and computers—I’ve been around computers since I was in high school, and had internet access since I was in college—but internet use been commonplace for at least 10 years; World of Warcraft and Facebook both started in 2004, so I figure that’s a good milestone.

  2. Well, and it’s not that you can’t be confuzzled by computers. It’s that people think it’s a good thing that they’re confuzzled by computers, like it means they’re superior minds or something. I’m confuzzled by mathematics. It’s because I’m lazy and refused to learn, not because my brain is special in some way. There’s room in there. I mean, I know all the lyrics to We Built This City, I know there’s room in there.

  3. Personally, I start feeling lost if I am not learning something new, trying something new, finding ways to stretch and grow.
    That said, I have no need for a smart phone, and don’t want to know anything about them. At age 44, I guess that is the one thing where I am “get off my lawn” ollllld. I phone my parents once a week (they are getting into skype these days), and talk with a friend in Michigan a couple times a week, and that’s it. A mobile phone is just an unnecessary expense to me. Plus, I just don’t like being always phone-able. Privacy and quiet time are far more important to me.

  4. I’m going to turn 42 and I’m in a tech profession.
    The clock is ticking on my employability so the main things I have going for me are that a) my knowledge is fairly broad about computer- and network-related issues, and b) I can quickly pick up whatever skills I need.
    Not that I’m worried about losing my job at the moment, but who knows what the future will bring. I’ve already survived one round of layoffs at this organization.

  5. Years of teaching taught me that there is no bottom age for willful ignorance. Instead there is an age where you feel you no longer have to hide it, and the success you have made of your life up to that point PROVES that being hidebound is an advantage.
    I don’t know when it happens, this change to pride in stupidity, I just know that aspects of it have a name.

  6. I forgot to answer your first question.
    I don’t know if there is a point where you can justifiably quit learning. I haven’t hit it yet, and all the oldsters that I admire haven’t either.
    Knowing myself, I expect that following the visit to the doctor where I am told I have two days left to live, I will be looking up the disease on wikipedia.

  7. A:
    That’s a good point that I tried to make but failed.
    I don’t expect people to know our products; that’s MY job. And I’ve worked with enough people over the phone and via screen sharing that I can usually explain what I want them to do.
    It’s the ones that don’t know what to do and don’t care that they don’t know that frustrate me. For God’s sake, I talk to network admins who know less about network adminstration than I do, and I’ve never had a network administration job.
    Computers aren’t going to go away just because you refuse to learn how to use them. And if you don’t know how to use them, why the hell do you have a job that requires you to use them? This is even more evident when you consider the current economic climate; if your company is going to trim its workforce, the person who is just as talented but also computer-savvy will probably not be the one getting the pink slip.

  8. There is no set numerical age, but there is a condition. That of not caring.
    There are incurious people in the world. We even had one for preznit. I have no idea how they justify their behavior without their brain imploding.

  9. i’m 66 and have always liked bob dylan’s “he not busy being born is busy dying.”

  10. I don’t think it has anything to do with age. It has to do with attitude. There are people who went through K-12 and a fair bit of college and learned next to nothing. They sleep walked through the whole darned thing. By the time they are 21, they are set in stone.

  11. Somewhere around the eighth decade, it seems that people’s desire/ability to change and adapt to new conditions starts becoming more and more limited, even if they have a good attitude. Their world becomes smaller; travel is a hardship, not a delight. On the other hand, contentment is easier to find. Of course, I have observed only a small sample, all relatives or friends, and I’ve seen wide variations in how well those people age. This is something that, as many of the medical studies I read suggest, needs more research.

  12. 57 years old and I just recently learned to use a flash drive. Quite proud of myself, I was.
    Yes, technology is cool but I wish, as an indicator that they are willing to keep growing, more people would decide to tackle a book. Something they didn’t understand in high school, or something that’s stood the test of time. No, you don’t have to wade through Moby Dick (sorry if I’ve insulted any MD fans), but quit hanging on every episode of Downton Abbey and pick up Edith Wharton or Henry James. Maybe you can read it on a Kindle or Nook or other whiz-bang dee-vice to satisfy the tech requirement.

  13. Does not matter how many times I have been disappointed by people, I still have that stupid trusting impulse everytime. So yeah, I will probably never learn. On the flip side, Tek is my buddy, love it all, and I use some of it. My 12 year old daughter, (Universe bless her nimble little speed of light texting fingers)uses nearly all of it. But she is young and just about everything is new to her.
    When I was in my 20’s and 30’s learning meant either school or some new technical ability to be mastered. Now that I am almost 60, learning for me is more about the world at large, my place in it and how I revolve around the other plantetary systems I come in conact with everyday at work or in the grocery store.
    I have learned that I need to differentiate between what is learning and what is experienceing, and that sometimes they happen all at once, and that sometimes I learn that the experience sucks.
    In the end, I just hope I never stilitify to the point where nothing sparks my interest. When that happens it’s time to start planning the wake.

  14. Something I heard a long time ago, don’t remember where, but I believe it wholeheartedly:
    The day you stop learning is the day you start dying.

  15. Well, I don’t see any point to getting up in the morning if you don’t have at least a modicum of hope of learning/experiencing something new. Next month I’ll be 71 and after a lifetime of reading, I’m probably reading more than ever. Ninety percent of it non-fiction. One of the best things about reading at my age is that I get to decide what’s interesting.
    However, there ARE some subjects that I know enough about. Abortion, the Holocaust, the history of racism. I’ve read lots of books on these subjects so I know where I stand. I don’t need to read another harrowing book about the Holocaust to know my position on it.
    On computers: Got my first one just before I turned 50. A few years later I wrote my first computer book. In the subsequent 20 years I wrote or co-wrote about thirty books on computer subjects. I still like using computers but I’ve lost interest in keeping the high level of currency required to be able to write about them.

  16. As a child, a friend told me something magical.
    On the days you learn something new, God doesn’t count the time against you.
    On the days you make somebody else laugh, God gives you an extra day.

  17. I’ll be 68 in July. The most important thing, as I look back on my life, is how much I’ve learned. And how much I’ve changed. If I were granted one wish, it would be to obtain enlightenment. Regardless of age, I think we are so inundated with new things, that out of necessity we have to be selective. That’s not from being old and crotchety; we only have so much time and energy. I still have this dream of learning a foreign language. Sometimes new is good; sometimes not so much.

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