Somewhere amidst all the chaos of the past two years, I realized I don’t know how to navigate the intermediate stages of life.
I used to worry that one day when my elders were gone, I’d have no one to consult when times got hard. So I started to hang out around my grandparents and parents more in an attempt to figure out how they think. I learned what they needed and tried to serve those needs. I listened to them tell their stories and I told them mine to get advice. But I couldn’t help sensing this feeling of depression hidden away. The faint ticking of the biological clock is present throughout time but gets louder as we slowly approach the end.
As a grandchild, part of the deal is that we bring joy to the elders, we give them life. We give them something to live for. We take their mind off their pain. We are their reprieve from suffering. But we have to remember that they are humans too, and may not know just how much they are taking. We have to establish boundaries if we want to continue to pursue our own accomplishments, as well.
Its interesting to pan out every once in a while to think of where this evolved from. I often think about my current feelings in the context of ancient humans. In my head, I imagine the elders surely would not have lived so long, or if they did, there’d be plenty of children running around to keep them entertained. Children don’t have their own responsibilities, and they don’t have places to be. They ask their grandparents for a story and listen attentively.
This type of relationship continued until the recent times, and I mean really recent. Just a generation ago, grandparents were still an installment in at least one of their children’s homes. Nowadays, people often set their folks up in a nursing home or assisted living. Modern humans are too busy to stop and hang out with slow, old people. We have errands, meetings, and appointments that fill up the day. And no one should deny those are important, but the wisdom of our elders is lost for our children if we do not learn to strike.
In fact, this awkward phase of not a girl, not yet a woman requires a different kind of elder. One that has not been jaded by all the mistakes they’ve made and that still has plenty of time to make more mistakes. My range for this sort of elder is anywhere from 5–10 years older than me. The knowledge they have is directly applicable to my life goals without being a restrictive and hopeless piece of advice.
They have the wisdom of their elders combined with the malleability of youth. They remind us to spend time with our families, knowing from their own experience how precious those moments are. Its just really great to know things are going to be okay and that even when we hit rock bottom, there’s always a way back up. There’s no need to memorize all the rules grandparents and parents will try to instill in our minds. The intermediate elders are not speaking from established success, they advise from humble experiences. They have wisdom but a more attainable kind of wisdom.
Originally written in Collective Journaling at The Stoa