Maybe some of you noticed a few typos and other mistakes in Monday's post. After Crabby Old Lady, a couple of weeks ago, wrote about how these errors have increased as she has grown older, I have been more diligent about trying to catch them before publishing.
That increased attention has, at best, resulted in marginal improvement – even when giving it a rest before editing. Worse, the mistakes I miss become glaringly apparent, somehow, once the story is posted online. I don't understand why that happens but it does. Frequently if not daily.
And sometimes, even my corrections need correcting.
Soon after I began this blog in March of 2004, I was fired from my job. It had nothing to do with my performance – it was “just business” and I wasn't the only one. The real difficulty came when I tried to find another job.
My younger fired colleagues, in their 20s and 30s, found work within a few weeks or a couple of months. In a year, I was able to get just two interviews.
One of those hiring managers, who had been enthusiastic enough on the telephone to invite me to an in-person interview early the next morning, suddenly remembered, after seeing me, that the job had somehow been filled since our late-afternoon phone conversation.
So sorry to inconvenience you, he said, etc. etc.
By then I was so deeply in debt that I was forced to give up the job search, sell my apartment in New York City and relocate to somewhere less expensive.
Here's another little story: I was in my mid-30s when the woman I worked for said during a staff meeting, “If you need Ronni to get anything done before the end of the day, be sure to ask her before 3PM; she's useless after that.”
We were a small group of friendly people producing a network TV show together and we all laughed – me too - because she was right. From mid-afternoon on my brain stopped working or, anyway, not as effectively as earlier in the day.
That doesn't mean I didn't pull all-nighters with everyone else, and travel for weeks on end living out of a suitcase and work on airplanes, in restaurants and cramped hotel rooms. But I was much slower after 3PM and made more mistakes, although in those days, they were easier for me to catch.
Here's a third little story – and revelation. For most of the time I've been turning out this blog, more than 12 years, I have believed and sometimes mentioned that had I been allowed, I was still capable of holding my own with colleagues, whatever their ages might be, at a full-time job.
And that was true for a long time. But now I must admit I can no longer do that, and have not been able to for two or three, maybe four years. Here is why:
• Fixing the increase in typing errors (and who knows what else I can't do as efficiently as in the past) would eat up a lot of time that would otherwise be needed elsewhere
• My intellectual fading by mid-afternoon happens even earlier nowadays. And recently, it is as much a physical impairment. I struggle daily to get both brain and body work finished before 2PM or so. After that I'm spent, and good for only more passive activities
• My sleep difficulty – falling asleep in the early evening and waking in the middle of the night – would make a traditional job difficult and I have no idea, with somewhere to be every day at 8AM or 9AM, if the sleep schedule would right itself. So far, I haven't been able to change it
I'm 75 now, halfway to 76, still in good health but feeling the effects of the passage of time in not unexpected ways. Although people age at different rates - often dramatically so - eventually we must come to understand that we are less capable than we once were.
For me, that's now - admitting it to myself even though I've been trying to ignore it for a couple of years.
I am not surprised or much bothered by this realization but here is what does bother me – and I'm certain I'm not alone: if not for widespread age discrimination, I could have kept working for another eight or nine or ten years.
And look at what would have happened if our culture respected old people enough to not kick us out to pasture before our time:
• I would have put away tens of thousands of more dollars toward my retirement
• I would have paid tens of thousands of more dollars in federal, state and local taxes
• I would have been able to postpone Social Security until age 70, leaving my contributions in the trust fund while also increasing the amount of my benefit
• The timing would have allowed me to pay off the mortgage on my New York City apartment
• All of which would have made it possible for me to remain in the city that is my home, my real home, the place where I belong.
I'm not alone. Think of that list in regard to the millions of people laid off after the 2008 crash who, thanks to the ageism of our culture, were then “too old” at 40 or 50 or 60 when the economy began to turn around, to work ever again in their field or at the salary they had been making when they were laid off.
Many also lost their homes, their savings and, of course, greatly reduced their Social Security benefit when they finally became eligible because old people, in our country, have no place in the workforce. This was not unique to the aftermath of the 2008 crash; it continues day in and day out in "normal" economic times too.
In the aggregate, age discrimination in the workplace is a tragedy affecting not only elders themselves who are fired or not hired, but all citizens due to hugely reduced tax revenue those elders would have contributed to the system if they were allowed to work. It affects our crumbling infrastructure, lack of public money to enforce regulations and laws, and diminishing support for education, among much more.
Those who perpetrate and perpetuate ageism are harming their country as much as they harm the individual workers they discriminate against.