Age is just a number

Published 9:04 am Thursday, October 8, 2015

While returning from a business trip down south a couple of weeks ago, I was faced with one of my biggest insecurities.

As the flight attendant made her way through the airplane double-checking that everyone was buckled in, she approached my row, which happened to contain the emergency exit. After verifying that all the other passengers in our row understood what to do in case of emergency, she looked at me, eyebrows raised, and asked for my age — to ensure that I was old enough by the company’s standards to shoulder the responsibility.

The policy says passengers in that row must be 15.

Flustered and embarrassed with my coworkers giggling at me, I assured her that yes, I was older than 15, and foolishly carried my embarrassment with me the rest of the day.

I think part of my humiliation was that my age has been questioned countless times before. I’ve been carded for cocktails and rated R movies more times than I can count in the last couple of years, and when people bluntly ask my age when they hear my title, I usually blush and change the subject, afraid for some reason that they will question my abilities if they have a number to attach to me.

And I know I’m not alone. I’ve seen plenty of peers shy away at this question, because while we want to admit we’re old enough to drink or see gory films, we don’t want to admit we’re younger than whatever age we associate with people old enough to do our jobs.

Reflecting on all of these experiences, I realize now that it isn’t my age that I’m insecure about (or the fact that I seem to look a lot younger than I actually am); it’s the stigma that older adults associate with my generation.

And that’s just plain silly.

President Ronald Reagan once pointed out that each generation is stronger than the one that preceded it, because it is the responsibility of the previous generation to raise the current one.

While every generation certainly has its flaws, we shouldn’t fail to acknowledge the strengths of new technologies, movements and societal changes that accompany future generations.

I also realized that by allowing myself to be embarrassed by this stigma, I’m acknowledging it as fact, and I’m not sure I’m ready to accept the stereotypes I and my peers are associated with.

The fact of the matter is, plenty of young professionals are making greats strides right here in our communities, and that’s something we should be proud of.

Niles and Dowagiac each celebrate this youthfulness with organizations dedicated to successful individuals who strive to make an impact in their respective cities. We see new young leaders emerge constantly — many opening businesses or taking on key roles before they ever hit 30.

These young leaders bring an energy to our towns that is invigorating. Using the lessons their parents and mentors taught them they are able to make great changes, and if they’re really smart, they maintain relationships with the wiser older adults and continue taking advantage of their guidance.

My point is, no matter how annoyed I get by people questioning my age, I’m making it a goal for this year to be proud of my generation and all it continues to accomplish.

The next time someone asks me how old I am, I’ll proudly say I’m 25, and I encourage my peers to do the same.


Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7713.