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Practicing To Be An Old Man

So, I’m getting older. I’m older, but I’m not ninety-one. Not yet. I’m just practicing being ninety-one.

Go 91

Not yet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My day-to-day job involves working with a partner. Together, we supervise a shift. I’ve been fortunate to have my two best partners as I approach the end of my first career.

Seeing The Line

My old partner retired at the end of 2011. He earned the reputation of being a no-nonsense guy, but the great secret that so many missed about him was that he cared about our work, those who did it, and the good folks in the neighborhoods we worked. Somehow, those he worked for never saw those qualities in him. The people who worked for him are wiser, they miss Curt. I do too.

Bill took Curt’s place on the job, but brought his own style. He is smart. Smart enough to be himself. He will earn the same respect his predecessor did.

Like I said, Curt had a no-nonsense reputation. He didn’t mind disagreeing with management when he decided it was important that they hear from him. But in his last year, something changed.

In his last year at work, I noticed that Curt would say things. Things that no one else could, to people no one else would dare – he said them. Sometimes he’d start and I’d give him the eye that said “it’s time to stop, man.” In that last year, he’d go right through my warning and say what was on his mind, without regard to the rank of the listener.

After he’d have his say during that last year, I’d go to him and say something profound like “are you nuts?” He’d smile and say “it’s different now.” We worked together long enough that sometimes six word conversations got the job done. He knew what he was doing and why. I let it go.

It Is Different Now

My new partner, Bill, and I worked together for about a year before it happened. I crossed that magical line from greater than to less than three-hundred-sixty-five days left in my career. And while I can’t say I noticed the change overnight, I’ve come to realize something. Curt was right, it is different now.

Actually, I didn’t realize I was even doing it at first. Not until Bill pointed it out. I’d say something and Bill would say “you know you can’t say that to him, right?” He’d laugh and shake his head at the emails I sent. Yes, it is different now

I’m still respectful to the people I supervise and the people who supervise me, but it is different now. Now I say things that I wouldn’t have said to people I work with before. Sometimes I’ve given people a more heartfelt pat on the back. Other times, I’ve said things like “I’ll do that, but I want you to know that it is nonsense.” Once, I didn’t even say nonsense.

When I say these things, people smile. They thank me. They say they’ll miss me, even when they don’t like the message.

51 Is The New 91

Conversations with elderly people are always interesting. They aren’t always comfortable, but they’re interesting and educational. I think that is because what you hear from a ninety-one year old is the truth, as best they know it. You might not like what you hear, but they are going to tell you. They’re going to tell you because they can. If you’re smart, you’ll listen whether you like it or not.

English: A megaphone vector image created usin...

Attention please. It is time for me to talk and you to listen.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a potent combination at work in seniors that makes those talks a gift – wisdom born of experience, the sense that the time to pass wisdom on is short and a wish to see things get better for those around them.. When you multiply those factors by a “nothing to lose” attitude you get a person who is fearless with the truth; someone who should be attended.

What I am finding out (and what I think Curt knew) is that reaching the late stage of my career is a lot like what I think reaching the late stage of my life might be. After this year is over, there are people I won’t see much of. They’re important to me, we’ve been through a lot and the time to share what I know is short. I don’t have time for foolishness or subtlety. It is time to say what needs saying then walk off into the sunset.

Not many of us get to practice being ninety-one. I’m enjoying my opportunity. And when I start my next career I’ll return to being a man who measures every word. That’s the right thing to do.

But watch out when I’m ninety-one. It is going to be different then. The feeling of having something to say is powerful stuff.

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36 Comments on “Practicing To Be An Old Man”

  1. Laura says:

    I can’t remember ever feeling that way. I have people I can say anything to, but not without thinking about how I say it.

    • omawarisan says:

      I am very fortunate to have this chance. It is nice to be able to speak my mind in ways that would have been foolish for younger me to even consider. I hope you get to try it out before you’re 91.

  2. benzeknees says:

    I’ve never had the luxury of being in that position except once for a brief 2 week period about 8 years ago when I had already given my notice at one job & knew they couldn’t get rid of me twice. I was finally able to say what I wanted to say, a few years later my observations were proved true & someone was convicted of a crime. I’m glad I finally got to say it!

  3. I work with the elderly at times. They can be brutally honest. Sometimes it’s refreshing, sometimes it’s a little too illuminating.

    Great post as always – congrats in advance on the impending retirement.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you. I have to admit that I’m moldy terrified at the idea of retiring. I will be 52, I have to find something else to do. I’ve got a very odd skill set.

      • Like Liam Neesom in Taken1, 2 and 3?

        • omawarisan says:

          Ok, first, my son and I were just talking about those movies. We decided that the next one should be titled Taken: Hide your kids somewhere else for Christs sake.

          On the skill set, kinda, sorta. The answer lies here – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5332561

          • For reasons unknown, WordPress has deactivated my blog and I cannot access any of it. I have written several times seeking clarification without success. All 124 of my posts are no longer accessible to me, and I cannot write new ones. Apparently they see nothing wrong with suspending a blog on a Sunday morning without having any staff available to explain what happened. I have no idea if I’ll ever get back on here.

            I’ve enjoyed (hopefully) entertaining my readers and being enlightened by other writers. I hope to be back on here as soon as possible with a new post I just wrote this morning.
            I’m not optimisitic this will be resolved, as it has been quite some time since the suspension and no one has contacted me to resolve it.

            My actual name is David Lovett. If this doesn’t get fixed, please be on the lookout for the novel which I’m writing. Without a blog to post on, I’ll finally have the time to finish it.

            Love you, miss you.

            Dave

  4. We Found Him Captain! says:

    “It’s different now”……How well I remember and cherish that period of time in my life. While I was always a “I’m gonna do it MY WAY fanatic, being able to do it blatantly and in full view of the opposition with the “In your face” demeanor spilling out of me, made it all worthwhile. IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR…………
    Enjoy it and be sure to leave your friends and your adversaries something good to remember you by.

  5. I’m a big proponent of not beating around the bush – I really can’t stand that behavior in people. Dancing around the topic gets people no where fast. I try to be diplomatic, but why hold back an opinion if it might help? Of course, I’ve run into trouble a few times. Seems to me that there are more people unlike me than I’d wish for. And they bring their tender feelings to the workplace. I suppose there has to be some middle ground between coddling someone and bludgeoning them with your opinion, but it’s often difficult to find. My sense is this – people who come to work expect to be treated like a family (well, a family that is dysfunctional and co-dependent). But employers aren’t paying for that kind of dynamic. I suppose that I could stop beginning my sentences with, “Are you insane?”

  6. writerdood says:

    I’ve noticed this a lot with my mother. Her tact seems to be decaying with age, but I think it’s more a function of truth vs. time. When you get older and your time is shorter, there’s not as much to use beating around the bush. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t consider someone’s feelings, but she won’t hesitate to tell her grandkids what’s on her mind when she disapproves of something.

    We learn slower as we age, and our internal clock speed slows down, making time seem to move quicker around us. Our virtual perception of time alters. There have been studies of time perception between groups of individuals varying in age that show this – a very interesting topic to me as I’ve noticed it myself, and had assumed it had more to do with memory storage than neural firing rates. I still think both are involved.

    Personally, I’ve come to appreciate those who speak the truth at work regardless of personal cost to them, and I rely on them, but I also advise them as to when they should tone it down. They only need to do it once. Continually ranting on a topic in a tactless manner is not perceived well by those who disagree with their viewpoint and have the power to make the decision. Management wants their feedback, but they want it once only. More than that seems like fomenting rebellion, and as I’m sure you’re aware, there are times you have to go with a decision even when you don’t agree with it and have a different vision of its outcome based on your experience – which is likely more extensive.

    As an INTJ personality type, I normally look to the future, and it’s in my nature to analyze and plan based on my experiences. Often times, I know exactly what others are going to say, why they’re taking specific actions, what they’re goals are based on those actions, and what the results will be. I don’t really analyze this, it comes to me like a reflex. I just know because I can see what they’re doing and I’ve listened to what they’ve said. If the goal is bad, I’ll go right to that point and explain what the ramifications of success and/or failure will be, and what the odds are. If the actions are bad for the goal, but the goal is good, I’ll go straight to the actions and tell them how that will affect their pathway to the goal.

    As I age, I expect I’ll become more curt about it. Speaking of which, we had on old character, a developer named Curt. We had to let him go because he was too curt. Kind of ironic eh? Curt complained way too much about software issues that didn’t matter to anyone but Curt. Oh, it isn’t that they weren’t relevant, but Curt didn’t look closely enough at the goals and the timelines. He had his own narrow view of things, which isn’t surprising. When you start looking at your little part of a big picture, sometimes you lose sight of that big picture.

    Speaking truth to power is good for everyone – one issue at a time. Repeatedly doing so on the same issue, however, becomes a rant. And doing so consistently labels you as a ranter. At which point, the perceived value of your opinion drops.

  7. Here’s the thing, when you’re bipolar people kinda expect you to say whatever the heck you want, or at least that’s my excuse. My sweet deceased New York Jew gramma – she would anyone who would listen all about everyone’s faults. Awesomesauce.

  8. lbwoodgate says:

    Welcome to the elder world. One of the benefits of being elderly is that people look at you differently when you say what’s on your mind or what your real impression of people and events are. If they find it offensive they are less hostile to you and usually make the mistake of writing you off simply for “being old”.

    But the truth is that you come to a time in your life when all the schmoozing and polite talk has little merit. You can be honest with people without being offensive if your goal is to instruct them, not beat them over the head with their own ignorance or shallowness. We all pretty much were at the level at some time in our lives.

    Aging shows us the difference between reality and idealism and fantasy, so calling a spade a spade is not something you do unless it is a part of reality. We worry more about hurting people’s feelings than sharing hard truths with them. If you genuinely care about someone or something, I have found that that’ll come through in how you express it.

    As for those who find it difficult to deal with when very old people, that 91 year old, says something that comes across as crabby. It’s simply because they have imparted their views on something too many times and find it irritating that people still can’t quite get a grip on certain realities. You’ll discover this in about 15-20 more years.

    At least this has been my experience.

    • omawarisan says:

      The people who realize we’ve all been there at some point, those are the ones I enjoy the most. I learn, and I get left standing. That’s what I try to do when I am mentoring someone at work.

  9. Debbie says:

    Oh, my, perhaps this is one reason I have to work for myself! I tend to be honest to a fault, though I usually try to temper it with tact. Still, most offices don’t really want that kind of Truth. Do you think that’s why “old people” don’t work any more, in offices I mean??

  10. Pie says:

    I think I’m 91 already.

    These days, as befitting someone who’s Officially Old™, I find I cannot and will not tolerate nonsense from some people and I tell them straight. No need to shout though, because a calm, confident and powerful voice is incredibly effective. It must be because, as Writerdood explained so brilliantly, time seems to be going faster and, quite frankly, I don’t want to waste any more of it than necessary. Like you, Oma, I think carefully about what I’m going to say to people, but sometimes there’s no room for niceties: you just have to say it.

    Sounds like you’re on a great wave in your retirement year right now. I bet it’s a hell of a ride.

  11. I keep making reference to her on other people’s blogs. It might be time to write about my then-mother-in-law “Louise,” who had already begun the sad struggle with Alzheimer’s by the time I met her. Although she had always had a rather strong personality, she had also always been reserved in what she said out loud. By the time I got to know her, “Nonsense” was her favorite word, only she didn’t say nonsense. The stories about her loss of “filter” still make me laugh, sometimes uncomfortably, but still.

    I’m not 50 yet, and I’m probably never going to retire, but I still feel that sense of “why not say it like it is” coming on.

  12. I am well into the last 365 days (or more), but still working full time. I love not really caring whether I keep working. It is fun for me and fun for co-workers. I can do their dirty work for them.

  13. This makes me wonder if we should all just say what we actually mean. What would that be like? We’ll never know because, like, society…

  14. Mrs. Shouts from the Abyss says:

    What a great post! I admire people who speak what they want. I call that authentic. All of my best friends are at least 10 years older then I am. They call themselves crones. They speak from the heart and I admire that. No nonsense, no coddling, just truth. I so look forward to being a crone and being my authentic self.

  15. Betty says:

    My brain-to-mouth filter in the work environment becomes less effective every day. Hope I can make through the next 11 years until I can retire.

  16. planetross says:

    Most people don’t believe what I say usually, but that’s okay usually … because most of it is nonsense.


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