27 December, 2014

The optimism of the young and the cynicism of the middle-aged

When I was out and about the other day I overheard two young shop assistants discussing their futures. They were talking about the degrees that they were currently studying for and how much they were looking forward to joining the world of work. One of them was hoping to enter the publishing industry, working with art books (her degree was in history of art, I think). “I just love the look and feel of those books,” she said. She sounded so excited, so enthusiastic, so full of energy.

I wonder what happens to us in middle age? Of course, some people still love their jobs, but many (at least those who I know) do not. Work is a means to earning money, to maintaining a certain standard of living, but the day-to-day grind is, well...a grind. I spent many years working in the publishing industry (and still freelance in the field). The work is fine, but certainly not glamorous. The reality is all about the bottom line, rather than the books, trying to get as much done with as little resource as possible. It’s much the same in most industries today, I think.

I look at the up-and-coming generation with awe. My oldest daughter is a case in point. She already, at the age of twelve, knows what she wants to do career-wise. And she is enthusiastic, articulate, confident, as are all her friends. I just don’t remember my own generation possessing such maturity and poise at such a young age. As middle-aged parents we need to be careful not to dampen our children’s spirits, not to tarnish their optimism with our cynicism.

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