You know the term “age is just a number”? It’s pretty common, and mostly used on birthdays of people who don’t enjoy the larger number they are turning. Side note: let’s give a half spirited, fully sarcastic round of applause to society for that upside down and Debby downer thought process. Why? Because age is such a gift, and I know- you’re thinking- how does this 20 something year old even know this?
Well, here’s the thing, the term also works for the younger folks. How? Because age IS just a number, people can be wildly different from the norm of their age. I know I am, and I know my husband is too (in opposite ways, but that’s for another story).
The world of professionalism is a stage or period in life that comes for each of us. It’s a silent stage in life that creeps up on us, even when we think we see it coming.
It happens for people in different ways and different speeds, but there is a day when you realize what you’re doing requires a separate version of yourself.
Some cases you are asked to change your behaviors slightly, while others you have to change completely to fit a role. I find it often comes unexpectedly and with the job you are given, or from the person, or the place you work for.
I’ve been in every stage for what feels like forever at a time. High school was one of the first shifts into the professional world. We were expected as young adults to make decisions that more often than not largely impacted the future of our lives. Whether it was the college we chose, the internship, or even the summer jobs. At this point, everything went on a resume. Everything had a place on paper to make you more important, more worthy, and more wanted.
After college, you have your first real life job- this is where all those years of good grades, extra credit, college tuition, and summer jobs came into play. Here, you had to yet again show your worth for positions that may very well lead you to reassess the importance of working at all. And to top it all off, you were expected to know how to do this from the very beginning.
My first out of college job was maybe one of the worst. I was eventually treated terribly. Although, it didn’t start this way- and I believe that’s how they get you. My energetic and knowledge hungry self slowly faded, and I became zombie-like on the job. I did the same exact things everyday and I sat and stared at my double screens all day. My future to grow in the job began and stopped the day I signed on.
I was given a title that sounded important and serious, but was nothing more than a glorified floater of the company, who picked up the extra work. They saw my age as just a number, not necessarily taking into account the person I actually was and my capabilities.
I stayed in the job as long as I could before finally leaving it. The problem here was, to society- it looked like I quit on a great opportunity that showcased my knowledge, skills, and worth. I felt utterly suffocated by my position there, and my health and self worth took a downward spiral. The feeling after leaving the job was something I’ll never forget- a weight lifted off me, and I instantly felt better. But this was of course also followed by horror and the realization I was jobless- right out of college. I thought- what will people think of me now?
Like all things, nothing is forever. I soon found another job, and it felt like something I could really take on and run with. They seemed interested in my worth and how I could potentially grow at the business.
But, at the end of the day- it all came down to my age. I couldn’t do certain jobs because of where I was in life (my age). I wasn’t worldly enough, and who knew if I could handle the work. My potential was measured by my age- perhaps not on purpose, but it was what it was.
I think that once people get to a certain level of success in life, and a certain comfortability, they become blind to the beginning stages of their success. Employees become people they “gave” a chance to, and any successes would therefore be a shared reward.
I once had an employer who congratulated me on a large purchase, while also noting that it was basically like they bought it for me. And I thought- hm, I don’t remember you scrubbing the floor and working your butt off!
Age is just a number, but life is more than that number.
In the end, my age is a gift, and I wouldn’t want to change it in order to change the way successful people see me. I am young, and according to society, I might not be as experienced in life. And somehow I am stuck being seen as the person that needs that big break.
I’ll tell you what though- All my proudest accomplishments come from the life experiences I’ve had- and none of them have had anything to do with the jobs or titles I’ve earned.
Life is bigger than your number, so why not live like it?