There’s two sides to this. There’s the youngling trying to be older, and there’s the older trying to be young again. Life is less about how long you’ve been around, and more about your state of mind. That’s a common belief, at least. And it’s true, to an extent. Age is just a number, but that number means something.
The older you get, the more life experience you have. For most, a higher age comes with a more developed skill set and professional capabilities. You’re 50 years old. You’ve spent 25 years in the same industry. Your age means something. You’re a reputable expert, even if you go full Parrothead every time Jimmy Buffett’s in the area.
People expect you to act like you’ve been getting better and wiser over those last 25 years. You’re expected to be a grand role model for younger generations. And if you don’t live up to those expectations, you lose a lot of credibility, which plays into so many facets of life.
If you’re 25 years old, you could be wise “far beyond your years.” You could be an expert in what you’ve spent 12 hours a day doing for the last three years. But your age means something else. People won’t expect as much from you, or they’ll expect different things than what you expect of yourself. You might act like you’re 40, but people expect you to be like any other stereotypical 25 year old.
It’s true that age is just a number, in that it doesn’t dictate who you are or how you act. But it does mean something. A person’s age often implies certain life experiences, or lack thereof, as well as expertise in their field, or lack thereof. You can behave however you want to behave at any stage of the game, but the truth is that all sorts of assumptions and expectations are places on you based on your age!
Is that fair? Maybe. It makes sense, at least. Our brains are always trying to process what we see and experience, and place that information inside various preexisting boxes. But we need to be careful what credit, or lack thereof, we place on people.
No one really has any idea what anyone else knows or has been through without spending significant time with that person. Yet we all place labels and assumptions on everyone else. Why is that?