Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Thirty-Five and Out

I upset Ian.  I told him people don’t change past age 35.  He was scandalised, and promptly put my comment in the heresy category.  He accused me of - at least - denigrating the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification.  Actually, I’d only reflected back to him the perplexity he’d thrown into the conversation.  It was what to do about people struggling on with character weaknesses after years of Christian walk.  I put it, “What do you do when redemption doesn’t bring the things you thought redemption should?” 

So I socked him this warning, that people don’t change past age 35.  Well, of course, it needs a bit of unpacking, so here goes. 

You're young; you're impressionable.  You learn fast.  You prove this by repeating every smart thing you've heard, as if it's your own. 

You spend your twenties with boundless energy, unconcerned for the future, because for all practical purposes it’s limitless (- there's time enough, and you've got lots of ideas). 

In your thirties, you solidify.  Here's your approach to life: you've walked a mile or two; proved your point; got somewhere; got values; you know what works, and that's why you're here, where you are.  So, you want to tell me something?  Try.  I've proved my point; boy, you'll have to work hard to convince me.  There's things at stake now; I've got a track record; stuff I've invested in (and seen a return on).  I won't be easily moved.  You've got to be impressively ahead of me for me to change track, change tack.  But go on: by all means let's hear what you've got to say.  I'm not unreasonable; it's just that - by and large - I've arrived.  You've got your work cut out to get me listening now.  I make my own way - have made my own way - and it works.

By forty, you're cooked.

I remember Joe well.  He was the programming manager at the Group data-centre that I was working for.  He’d worked his way up over twenty years from a junior coder to his present role, pretty much at the peak of his career.  Then he was dispatched to attend the company’s “Specialist to General Manager” professional training course.  It wasn't really in his game plan to pitch for more senior jobs, but our employer was good at talent harvesting.  He was corralled into a posh hotel conference room with a couple of dozen contemporaries.  The facilitator began; "You've got to the top of the ladder.  But every now and again you wonder if it's leaning against the right wall."  Joe was uncomfortable.  He was used to keeping his head down, looking over his team's work with an experienced eye, paying the mortgage, planning a worthwhile but affordable holiday for the family.   This guy spooked him.  Joe shut down. 

I don't quite know why Joe chose to confide in me.  But I've met many Joe replicas.  They sit in front of me on Sundays and at other events. "Go on, try to convince me." 

Don't get me wrong - it all has a good aspect, too.  Ellen's got four children well in hand and doing great at school.  She's stood by her hubby as their income's roller-coastered with the pretty difficult economic turns in his trade.  She's not omnipotent, but she's got assurance.  Now in her late thirties, she's got a faithful model of family life, and relating to neighbours.  Now, what will she listen to?

And when I say all this to others (mostly over 35) who initially react, they mostly nod and demur.  Is that an answer, Ian?

No comments: