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A few years back, I was working at the desk in the library of the seminary I was attending. A group of women walked in who hadn’t yet seen our new library. A couple of them were reminiscing about the old library, and even the library before that.

I had a Central College mug on the desk. One of the women asked if I went to Central. I told her that yes I did. She asked if I knew a certain person. I said that I didn’t, but I thought I knew her daughter, who was in my class at Central. Her response? “Thanks for dating me!” As they walked away I heard her telling the story to the other women.

“Thanks for dating me!” Somehow, the whole situation really bothered me. It’s not like I’d never heard the phrase before, but it was the way she said it and the context that rubbed me the wrong way.

Like a good seminary student, I stopped and asked myself “okay what is it about this that bothered me?” There are several things — but the main thing? The words were said with such an unpleasant tone, as if I had pointed out her age as something that was offensive or inferior.

I know, I am young. I know that I don’t understand what it is like to be older. I’m aware of this. But as someone who is my age, to all people who are no longer my age: it is not a bad thing to be older than 27. It is not a bad thing to have seen and experienced and learned and grown from things along the way.

When I look at people who are older than me, I am jealous. I’m jealous of your age because it means you are taken seriously in situations where I am not. I’m jealous of your experience because it means you will be considered for jobs that I’m seen as unqualified for. I’m jealous of the things that you have learned because you know how to respond in situations where I have no clue. There are doors that are open to you that will not be opened to me.

I understand that there are things that are difficult about getting older. You no longer look like you’re 27, and your body doesn’t feel the same as it used to. I don’t even know many other things that are probably difficult. I’m not saying that each age doesn’t have it’s difficulties. But each age also has its blessings. I don’t want to spend my life so busy looking at the things I don’t have that I’m blind to what I do.

I had never seen my age as a drawback until I started applying for jobs and then I started to feel extremely inadequate. I suddenly became very aware that I’m young, and that in a lot of situations this can be seen as a disadvantage. I need to remember that my age is not something that is holding me back, but is something that I’m bringing to the table. There are things you can learn from people my age.

Your getting mad and saying “Thanks for dating me!” helps no one. Your age is not something to be ashamed of. Time changes us, and that is a good thing! Own your age and help me to own mine. What if our different ages were not something that separates us, but something that gives us reason to connect? Teach me and ask me to teach you. I want to learn, but I also want to contribute.

I don’t want to waste my time wishing I was older or younger. I want to be here and now, doing the best I can with where I’m at. I hope you do the same.

Locked door photo by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash

Ellen Balk

Ellen Balk is a minister in the Reformed Church in America. She grew up in the Midwest but now serves a church on Long Island, New York with her husband, Aric. She loves reading, hiking, and traveling.


  • Lynn Setsma says:

    Thank you! It is that woman’s loss! I’m in my mid 70’s and cherish my young friends as much as my contemporaries. I learn much from both. We love hanging out with people of all ages and ethnicities. They all enrich our lives. I remember being that young person and now I chuckle when I realize I’m on the opposite end now.

  • Kathy says:

    I grew up when the catch phrase (that was way before we had memes) was, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty!” So I was a little surprised when my college-educated, masters degree-holding daughter said, “I can’t WAIT to be thirty!” When I asked her why, she replied, “Because I want to be taken seriously!” I was so surprised because, in my opinion, she was so well spoken, grounded, and street smart already. I guess ageism goes both ways these days!

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