One of the Best-Kept Secrets of Adulthood
There's this gorgeous little unsung pocket of human experience.
It's hard to find, is rarely modeled for us, doesn't even occur to many of us. But it can be one of the most heart-opening, fear-reducing gifts we can give ourselves.
And it's nothing more and nothing less than intergenerational friendship.
It's easy to spend our time with folks within a few years of our age. Society encourages it, too: we go to school with our age peers, of course. Then there's yoga for young parents, senior centers, mid-level career management trainings, magazines just for retired folks, just for teenagers, just for young professionals, but rarely for everyone.
There's nothing wrong with this. It can serve important purposes. But I think of something an older man once told me: If you get to be my age, he said, and all your friends are dying, you did it wrong. You never found out what it was like to be 20 years younger or 20 years older than you. You only know what it's like to be your age in this age.
And he's right. I have older friends who've seen further and longer than I, and are full of hard-won wisdom. I have younger friends who pop with enthusiasm, and are full of revelations about themselves and the world.
This is not to typecast everyone who's older than us as sages and younger than us as sparkplugs - that diminishes the fullness of their humanity.
But with intergenerational friendships, I have come to a more generous understanding of what it means to be alive. One that's a little less exclusive to the particular part of the human path I'm walking, and a little more understanding of the parts others are walking.