Oscar Niemeyer at age 97 in his office in Rio de Janeiro, photo David Harry Stewart


ageist editors | march 22, 2018

wisdom and gravitas are not weapons

I don’t feel particularly wise. True, I understand some things better than other people who have not worked in my field. After several years at the top of a profession, I have a new venture, a media startup. Every day I feel like a beginner, at an age when my big fat ego would prefer to feel like an expert. We choose our paths, and this one, like all of my previous ones, is never boring.

I have noticed that when with younger people, they seem to treat me as more or less equal, which feels great. It opens a possibility of a conversation, a moment in which I can learn from the other person. I have also noticed that on rare occasions, I pull out the wisdom/gravitas card. It usually happens when I am feeling a bit scared. I'm using it as a defense, and not a very good one at that. The default being I know better because I am older: cue the paralyzing boredom that creeps over their faces.

We are not all equal. But what we all want is to be included. We have different experiences, and in order to be inclusive, we need to maintain curiosity. If I step into the room and do my wise old elder schtick, that curious interaction with everyone else gets shut down.

Some of the very wisest people of any age that I know are perennially curious — they know they don’t know all that much. They don’t demand respect, they request a conversation.