Every now and then, someone asks me “Are you a student?” It has become a sort of introductory line at seminars and conferences for sales and PR people to start a conversation with me. They look at me, then look at my name tag, see that I come from a university, and then think that I’m probably a student.
I’m modestly flattered. My dress style comprise mainly T-shirts and jeans which are, if I may say so, reasonably youngish trendy. Add to that coloured hair. It is no wonder that people think I’m younger than I really am. I seem to blend in with the younger crowd.
But these are just outward appearances. There is a generation gap from those who really are actually younger, even some of those whom I’d have considered not too different from my “era”. I can sense the subtle “distance”. Things like when they are bitching about things that I’ve long not bothered myself with. Or the sense that they are being extra cautious in what and how they say things. Or those who simply fail to reciprocate acts of friendship. It’s like our “frequencies” aren’t quite in sync anymore.
Then there’s another aspect to the whole thing. This used to be a warm and friendly workplace. Colleagues can be friends. In fact, colleagues were often friends. But we’re slowly changing to become just like the many other cold workplaces elsewhere. The places where people come to work, do their part, knock off, and return to their lives. The places where colleagues are distinctly different from friends.
It’s a sad reality. As one grows older, the people working around you seemingly gets younger. The “old guard” leaves, and “new blood” is injected. The new blood sees things differently. Not that they’re actually doing anything wrong, but just a difference in behavioural norms. Not unlike how the “older guard” also behave different.
Suddenly I feel old. The people whom I thought were on the same “wavelength”, aren’t. Once upon a time, I was the “on-the-ball” person to rally people for lunch, for dinner, for outings. Nowadays, I think “why bother?” The truth could be that they don’t want to be so friendly, but feel obliged when asked.
Simple exercise to try out. Stop asking people out for lunch. Do you find that your usual lunch group (if there’s still one at all) has changed somewhat?