I overheard a woman who was saying to another woman that school teachers these days look like they’re the students.
Coming from someone who has a young face, is rather small in size, and looks significantly younger than I actually am, I am constantly faced with this type of misconception and sometimes even discrimination in regards to how old people think I am.
And for years, I have been trying to make up for the fact that people treat me young.
Since college and even more-so after graduating college, I’ve constantly felt the need to justify or prove myself — Prove my intelligence, prove my competency, prove my maturity, and my age.
I moved to and currently live in New York, and I often travel back to my hometown in New Jersey to visit my parents. No matter how much time has passed, every time I speak to my relatives or family friends, they always act as if I had just graduated college a month ago. I am often asked the ever-familiar question of “How old are you now?” in which I respond by telling them my age, and they immediately follow up by saying, “Oh my goodness, no way!”
To be frank, it’s belittling and even condescending.
Yet, if I were to reverse the situation and ask them, “How old are you now?” it would be perceived as offensive.
Why is it that the older generation can continually ask us these questions in regards to age, which they do not perceive as offensive to us, but if we were to do the same, it would be considered rude.
This is a double standard.
By all means, do understand that I respect my elders. Growing up in an Asian household, this rule was basically my cornerstone.
But shouldn’t we also respect each other as individuals, regardless of age?
If the older generation continues to treat the younger generation as if we are children, then we will continue to act and feel like children.
If the older generation continues to coddle us and make us feel us incapable of being adults, then surely, we will continue to act as if we are incapable of being adults.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein
On my behalf of my generation, I do however, claim partial responsibility on the matter. Many of us Millennials, and those younger than Millennials, openly and willingly receive this form of ongoing coddling from our parents and from society in general.
In fact, many of us even go as far as taking advantage of our parents’ support and riding it out as long as we can — I personally know people like this.
And for those parents who encourage it, well, you are clearly not helping the situation.
Now, I am not putting complete blame on the older generation — We do have a shared responsibility. However, I do want the older generation to know that it is not okay to continue treating those of us in our 20’s and 30’s as if we are incapable or incompetent of being mature adults.
By treating us as though we are children, you are reinforcing the Peter Pan syndrome of “I’ll never grow up”. You are reinforcing ageism, masking our maturity, and hindering us from affecting change.
Some of the largest and most impactful change has come about from those whom people thought were “too young” to make a difference.
So, I tell this to the older generation — Believe in us. Trust in us. Let us create change, especially in such a time as this. Stop treating us as though we are not capable.
I am not writing this as a millennial rant, but more-so, to attempt to close the generational gap.
Instead, I am hoping that when I have officially crossed over into being a part of the older generation, that I do not treat younger people in such a manner which makes them feel incompetent, immature, and insignificant.