The age of a person is the ultimate stereotype, holding a vast amount connotations as well as expectations.
Age, however, is not a category you chose to be in, it is one chosen for you by the date of your birth. Our age tells us how to dress and how to act, but even more so, it tells us what we are and are not capable of doing.
Think about it: We expect children to have young, naive and impulsive views on reality, while we expect the elderly to be full of the wisdom that comes with the years. We expect middle-aged women to be married and thinking about children, and teenagers to be lazy and egocentric.
While, yes, there is a certain correlation between age and what the majority of people are focusing on at that given point in their lives, we all know the middle-aged man who is supposed to have started acting his age about 20 years ago, but never has. And let’s not forget the curious preteen whose inquiries about life surpass their parents by decades.
People have passions and desires to be or do things with their lives, but are stunted by what society has engineered into what is appropriate for a certain age group.
Then those who break the mold and are outside of that age group are reprimanded for not following the norm. It is because of that suppression and lack of understanding that people categorize others to the point where they feel empty and inadequate.
I can only speak for myself, but it has been detrimental to my life when people only see me for my age. While youth is a blessing that should not be taken for granted, it is rare for someone to take into account my capabilities based on merit, rather than the number of years I have been on this planet.
In my own life, I have seen certain individuals completely adjust their attitudes and judgments about me solely because of how old I am. One minute, we can be having an intellectual conversation about politics and life lessons, and the next, I am branded in a small niche composed of those who are childlike and inexperienced.
By no means am I saying that I do not have more to learn, in fact, at first I was confused and unaware that such a simple matter could trigger such extreme reactions. But as this began to occur more and more often, my social dynamics began to narrow.
I realized people are so consumed by what age supposedly says about a person that they begin to lose the ability to see others as they are – separate from their age.
Some people may suggest that time is relative, and I would argue that age is as well.
There are those who have lived and learned a lifetime worth of experience and then there are those who never really learn anything at all. People adjust to the circumstances of their lives and gain knowledge from the events they experience.
Each person as a single unit is the way he or she is for a reason. You cannot go up to anyone and tell him he does not understand a traumatic event that has just occurred in his life because of age. Just like you cannot approach someone who has never known the toll life can take and expect him to be empathetic.
We see what we want to see based on what we already have. So when one is categorized as an immature individual because she is the same age as another, it makes perfect sense in the psychological realm that she would carry the same connotation as the immature person, but it is because they are two completely separate people that it is necessary to make the distinction.
Granted they could very possibly fit into the adolescent mindset and follow suit, but you never know, and it is because you can never know that it is not only evident but imperative that people are taken for who they are, not what age they are.
Aama Harwood is an editor for El Diablo. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.