I’m Really Old

As if I’m not already reminded daily (with three children that go 100 mph on air, apple juice, and ten hours of sleep) that I lack much in the energy and vitality departments, I must now face my pre-geriatric reality at work.

I’ve only worked in a few offices, but I would classify garden-variety office employees into three groups:

  1. the kids
  2. old
  3. decrepit

I know you’ve worked with the decrepit folks before. They’ve been on the job for 100 years. They’ve weathered lay-offs and restructurings. They’ve accrued six months of vacation and disappear for weeks at a time to redeem said vacation because they’ll lose it if they don’t. These seasoned veterans possess deep secrets, like where the good pen stash is hidden and how the postage machine works. Their desks are decorated with photos of grand kids in soccer uniforms. They have yard sales out of their cubicles.

The “old” guys are usually in managerial positions. In the “prime of life,” they have either found their niche in their profession or are about to make the next transition to success.

I always regarded the office old folks (about ten years ahead of me) with reverence. They were real grown-ups but had not yet checked out. They had mortgages and mini-vans. They had kids who took dance and went on family vacations. They cut the grass on the weekends.

They were—gasp!—in their forties.

So I’ve always been way below the “old” and “decrepit” categories. I’ve been one of the “kids” who sees movies on opening weekend, reads People, and could not—not even under duress—quote the Nickelodeon preschool morning line-up. I actually remember an office discussion circa 2001 where I was clueless as to who Spongebob was. Clueless. Now? I hum Spongebob songs in the shower and have a Squidward quote on my Facebook page.

At my new part-time job, I’m facing the reality that I’m an “old guy” now. Chattering about pregnancy and labor, children’s programming, and the decline of property values and home equity, I’ve moved into that category. Sadly, I’m displaying all the blandness of the “old” category without much of the “professional successful prime-of-life” aspects.

I’m working a few hours each week as an administrative assistant for a successful company that specializes in web-based training programs. I’m thinking a job at this company for someone in the tech or design fields would be a nice gig. Pleasant company. Growing company. Great future.

Naturally, the place is loaded with new grads or almost-new grads. Lots of people age 25 and under.

I try to fit in with the “kids” at the office. When they start to talk about recipes or weekend outings, I think I’m going to say something fun, youthful, and witty. Instead, most of my comments come out boring and irrelevant. Sometimes I feel like Lane’s dad in Better Off Dead as he consults a handbook of teen lingo when he talks with his son.

One day I was talking to C, a youngish professional, who sits beside me. She’s very friendly and likable. Somehow I tend to relate most of our conversations to the office where I worked before I had children. In my mind, it feels like I just left last month, when it’s been 6.5 years. So, naturally, a lot has changed. It’s actually been TEN years since I started that job.

I managed to turn the conversation that day into “Well, when I worked… blah, blah, blah,” which then became a mini-rant about the idiosyncrasies of a former boss. I was kind of in reminisce-mode-yet-so-glad-I’m-not-there-anymore-mode, while C politely nodded with a glazed-over expression. I concluded with the always-insightful and jovial, “Oh, well. That was ten years ago. 1999.”

C perked up. She said, “Wow. Ten years.”

It then occurred to me that my version of 1999 and C‘s version of 1999 were quite different.

I was beginning a great job, stockpiling bottled water and canned food for the Y2K “catastrophe,” and taking a cruise. I had already been married four years.

“How old were you in 1999?” Bracing for it. Here it comes.

“I was a freshman in high school.”

Uh-huh.

One day, I overheard the group trying to figure out another young woman’s age. They were going through how long she had been married, when she graduated from college, and so on.

Then they said, “She’s got to be ‘our age.'”

Yea. Our age. 30-ish? 30-something? Wait a second. What exactly IS “our age”?

“You know. Like 24, 25.”

And another day, office chatter turned to an Internet posting about a baby who was born at 12:34:56 on 7/8/09 (you see: the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, and 9, right?). Anyway, that got us talking about weird birth dates and number combinations.

I just happened to blurt out—from my prehistoric perspective: “Well, I went to school with a girl who was born on 6/6/66. Isn’t that creepy?”

C says, “That’s not that long ago.” (Not really sure why she said that. Maybe she could sense my mental gymnastics with carbon dating and wanted to make me feel a little better? But anyhoo… her comment led to another co-worker’s comment:)

“Yea. She’d be… let’s see.. 43 now.”

Forty-three years ago. You know. Before electricity and air conditioning and frozen dinners.

So my fortieth birthday is still more than a year away, but I can’t help being all contemplative as that milestone approaches.

My new job with the “kids” has just accelerated my timetable, that’s all.

  • Jennifer

    This post made me laugh. I loved your use of the word "duress."

    I would also like to point out that coolness in your 20's is all a facade. A facade, I say. And also, Jennifer Anniston is 40. And anyway, coolness is overrated.

    I'm not defensive. Not me.

  • brigidday

    I have to be careful whom I tell that I'm going to my 20-year high school reunion, since some of the people are my kids teachers who are 23. Or 20. Or as "old" as 27.

    How did this happen? No, really. How?

  • Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing

    LOL Mary. Great post!

  • Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing

    FYI-first installment of chores post is up. Blessings!