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The Benefits of Maturity

Sunset over the mountains

I’m an Old­er Woman. My 50th birth­day is fast approach­ing. No mat­ter what I do with my résumé, it is pret­ty obvi­ous that I’m not a mil­len­ni­al. That is who is tru­ly desired, it seems, by the tech star­tups that I pre­fer to work with.

Oh, the job post­ings don’t come out and say that they don’t want old peo­ple, but the key­words are there?. “Fast-paced,” “high ener­gy,” and “dynam­ic!”? They all whis­per, at least, that “we only want young peo­ple!”

This isn’t just my impres­sion, but the con­sen­sus among var­i­ous peo­ple I’ve spo­ken with. It prob­a­bly isn’t inten­tion­al, but the bias is there and the ageism is felt. So I want to address some things that seem to be missed by the “we want young peo­ple!” folks.

First, there are plen­ty of mature work­ers who can keep up with that “fast pace” you describe. We know our­selves, our bod­ies and our oth­er com­mit­ments. We have the expe­ri­ence it takes to judge whether or not we can com­mit to start­up life. I’ll be hon­est: I don’t think many young peo­ple can match that lev­el of self-knowl­edge. I know that when I first worked for a start­up, back in 1995, I didn’t have any idea how much ded­i­ca­tion it would require.

Sec­ond, old­er work­ers bring a life­time of expe­ri­ence in many dif­fer­ent areas, and that expe­ri­ence is brought to bear in our work­ing lives in ways that younger work­ers sim­ply can­not match. For instance, I don’t have the admin­is­tra­tive work I did decades ago on my résumé, as it isn’t direct­ly rel­e­vant now. How­ev­er, that expe­ri­ence shaped me and gives me the abil­i­ty to bet­ter relate to non-tech­ni­cal peo­ple as a sup­port professional.Younger peo­ple don’t have that kind of added val­ue.

The aver­age old­er work­er has been out of school and their par­ents’ homes for a long time, mean­ing that they have expe­ri­ence man­ag­ing their own finances and house­holds inde­pen­dent­ly (or with life part­ners). That gives us a cer­tain respect for the val­ue of mon­ey and time that noth­ing else does. How much of that expe­ri­ence does some­one right out of school have?

Most old­er work­ers are also post-par­ent­ing. Their kids are grown and rea­son­ably inde­pen­dent (whether out of the house or not), so they aren’t going to be jug­gling preg­nan­cies, soc­cer prac­tices, and music lessons that will impact their work lives. Grand­chil­dren? Yes, some of us have them. Being a grand­par­ent is, how­ev­er, a far less time-con­sum­ing com­mit­ment for most peo­ple than being a par­ent.

Final­ly, there’s noth­ing else that beats matu­ri­ty for giv­ing you a calm tem­pera­ment. Some peo­ple are born with them, but on aver­age, it’s eas­i­er for some­one with 30 years of pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence to put one bad day into per­spec­tive than it is for some­one with a few months or years of work­ing under their belts. (I know there are excep­tions to this, as to every rule, but Don­ald Trump prob­a­bly isn’t apply­ing to work at your start­up.)

The next time you get a résumé or appli­ca­tion from a Baby Boomer or Gen X’er, then, please take these fac­tors into account. Con­sid­er their tech­ni­cal skills, cer­tain­ly? (and don’t assume that they’ll be out­dat­ed) ?but weigh their matu­ri­ty on the pos­i­tive side of the scale, for a change.

(Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished at Medi­um)

Morning Pages Tool

I've recently gotten back into the discipline of doing morning pages, something that's a vital part of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. It's a great way to clear your mental caches each morning and prepare to write something more meaningful. Traditionally, one writes three pages longhand.

Unfortunately, I have trouble with that. The arthritis in my hands causes terrible cramping, and I can't read what I've written by the time I'm a sentence or two on. I get preoccupied by how terrible my handwriting is and so distracted that the whole point of the exercise is lost.

If I try to use a word processor, I end up writing too much. Blogging is no good, because I write too much and I worry about forgetting to mark the entries private.

750 Words is a wonderful alternative. It provides nothing but a blank screen and a notice when you hit 750 words (three pages at 250 words each equals 750 words). It's a free service! And it will send you reminder messages.

I'm tickled pink!

If I Could Be a Magazine Editor

Plinky asked, “If you could be an edi­tor for any mag­a­zine, which would you choose?”

News­stand

Oh, that’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion. There are mag­a­zines like Wired, that have enor­mous dis­tri­b­u­tion with­in a cer­tain demo­graph­ic and cov­er fas­ci­nat­ing sub­jects. Then there are lifestyle mag­a­zines that have the poten­tial to be very influ­en­tial among women, such as Real Sim­ple (the only one I per­son­al­ly ever read). I’m afraid I’d be bored pret­ty quick­ly with their con­straints, though. More seri­ous­ly, there are mag­a­zines like Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can (and Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can Mind) or Skep­tic. That would be chal­leng­ing. Do you think Nation­al Geo­graph­ic edi­tors get to trav­el much? I haven’t even touched the online mags, like Salon, yet. They count, right? Then there are all the lit­tle niche pub­li­ca­tions, like the mag­a­zines for var­i­ous sorts of col­lec­tors, or needle­work­ers, or cross­word enthu­si­asts and so on. Is there a mag­a­zine about mag­a­zines, oth­er than Writer’s Digest?

I keep com­ing back to the breadth of mate­r­i­al Wired cov­ers. Tech­nol­o­gy, books, music, sex — that sounds pret­ty good to me. If I got to play with the lat­est tech toys, it would be even bet­ter!

Powered by Plinky

Whether…

Such a word that is, indica­tive of choic­es big and small. I’ve faced more change than choice in the past 30 days or so, thanks to a major rela­tion­ship change.1 But there have been choic­es, and there will be yet more choic­es in the future — choic­es that I will be mak­ing alone, for the first time in many years.

Choice, reflect­ed in that word, is the NaBloPo­Mo theme for March. And I’m mak­ing a change, by mak­ing a choice to return to blog­ging.

I’ve been jour­nal­ing pri­vate­ly these past weeks as a spir­i­tu­al prac­tice and have found it reward­ing. I’m not quite doing writer’s pages à la Julia Cameron, but per­haps I’ll return to that dis­ci­pline at some point. To be hon­est, my spir­i­tu­al life has suf­fered great­ly in the past six years, and my writ­ing has suf­fered along with it (as well as my music, needle­work, and every­thing else).

So, per­haps I’ll write about choic­es this month. Or about changes. Or about any­thing else that strikes my fan­cy. I’m just mak­ing a com­mit­ment to post­ing a bit each day, for now.


1 One not yet reflect­ed every­where on my web sites, because it takes a lot of time to track down all men­tions of a 14-year part­ner­ship

Writing Bug

I’m more and more tempt­ed to write some fic­tion again. It’s been years since I did that. I’m good with char­ac­ters and envi­ron­ment, but not so good with plot. I don’t like to write about neg­a­tive things, or nasty peo­ple, which is rather prob­lem­at­ic when you need to have con­flict.

I know part of it is read­ing books and think­ing, “Damn, I could do bet­ter than that.” But to be real­is­tic, any­body who has fin­ished a book is doing bet­ter than I actu­al­ly have done.

One thing that’s real­ly get­ting to me is the num­ber of anti-fat state­ments that get thrown in to so many sto­ries. They have noth­ing to do with the sto­ry – they just hap­pen because of the authors’ prej­u­dice. Describ­ing a minor char­ac­ter as fat is a cheap short­cut, because most read­ers will assume the per­son is lazy, slop­py, and not ter­ri­bly intel­li­gent (or a hyper­fo­cused geek with no social skills if he is smart).

I know that start­ing out with a “mes­sage” is a crap­py way to write fic­tion, though. Mes­sages are bet­ter expressed in essays, not sto­ries.

Still, I have this itch. Bah.

School Happy

I final­ly got the grades from the first tech­ni­cal writ­ing assign­ment I turned in last week, and the peer reviews I did on two of my class­mates’ rough drafts. I got full points for all of them!

I was wor­ried about one of the peer reviews, because the per­son chose to do a set of instruc­tions for start­ing to cross-stitch. I know too much about that top­ic to eval­u­ate it well from a beginner’s point of view, and that was the intend­ed audi­ence. I actu­al­ly approached the pro­fes­sor with some ques­tions, and won­dered if I should swap reviews with some­one new to stitch­ing. Hap­pi­ly, the pro­fes­sor said I pro­vid­ed a bal­anced review that reflect­ed my expe­ri­ences as a for­mer begin­ner and cur­rent­ly expe­ri­enced stitch­er, and that I was respect­ful through­out. I was try­ing very, very hard to avoid any hint of con­de­scen­sion, and it appears that it worked!

My top­ic was “Cre­at­ing Your First Pod­cast,” and that received full points, too. It had to be done with a Flesch–Kincaid Grade Lev­el less than 8th grade, which was not easy. I got it down to 7th grade, and couldn’t go any low­er. The pro­fes­sor said that was due to the tech­ni­cal terms I had to use, and was per­fect­ly accept­able.

Weekend and School Update

The girl and Sam both had busy weekends. Katie went out Friday and Saturday, playing D&D with friends first, then going to a party with her sweetie during my and Sam's date Saturday night. Sam had a computer to deliver Saturday morning, then ran around picking up some things. He went out again yesterday, to the library for me and to the grocery store and the farmer's market and I'm not even sure where else. Then he did an intervew for his podcast last night.

This is the last week of my classes for the semester, so I did a paper for one class and created my slides for a group project presentation in the other, then had a couple of quizzes. Monday night we do our presentation online, and see the other groups' presentations. That class doesn't have a final, but I do have to take the final for the management class, then I'm done.

Next week I start a class everybody is apparently supposed to take around the beginning of their studies, since one of the assignments involves creating a "plan of study." DeVry seems to have a lot of these "because we said so" classes, which is annoying. I'm also taking my first technical writing course at DeVry, though. It will involve more group projects, a bane of my existence.

It's one thing to work together in a business setting, where people's jobs depend on their performance. It's quite another to be yoked with people who just can't be arsed to pull their weight and apparently think Bs are high grades. I'm absolutely appalled by the number of people in the 400-level classes I had this semester who cannot create a coherent paragraph, much less write a paper.

I had the required "write a research paper" class over 20 years ago, at another school. Either the standards have fallen horribly, or Mercer had higher standards than I realized. (I won't even bother comparing Agnes Scott's standards to DeVry. It's too painful.) Of course, if either of those schools had remedial courses of any sort, I was unaware of them. Those "teach you what you should have learned in middle school" classes are a fact of life in all the University system schools and DeVry. I know that there were some when I took classes at Georgia Perimeter so many years ago, but they seem to be more and more important now. I honestly don't think they belong in any institution of "higher learning." If you can't read, write, and do basic math before you get to college, you have no business being there, because you do not have the essential tools required for success. I suppose that makes me an elitist.

It's going to be odd going back to 100 and 200 level courses next week. By the time most students do get to the 400-level courses, the true dregs have dropped out or risen out of that status. Threaded discussions are such a huge part of online classes that you get far more exposure to your classmates writing than in a face-to-face class, and you quickly find out who can't or won't write and who has no clue about how to discuss issues without degenerating into total nonsense. That part of this semester hasn't been as bad as others, at least. I did still run into nutcases insisting that this country was founded as a "Christian nation," but that's pretty much to be expected anymore.

Review: Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher

Writing to Change the World
I haven’t actu­al­ly fin­ished Mary Pipher’s Writ­ing to Change the World yet, so it’s prob­a­bly weird for me to be doing a review. It’s a real­ly meaty lit­tle book, though, and I haven’t fin­ished it because I keep going back to re-read sec­tions or copy some of the quotes scat­tered through the text. 

The focus of the book is on per­sua­sive writ­ing. I like the fact that Pipher acknowl­edges the pow­er of sto­ries and fic­tion to inspire change.

I’ve got to return it to the library (it’s way late, because I didn’t want to let go of it), but I’m def­i­nite­ly going to find a copy of my own soon. As I real­ly don’t buy that many books, pre­fer­ring to read them from the library, buy­ing a copy after I read the library’s copy is pret­ty high praise.

I’ve admired Pipher for years, since read­ing Reviv­ing Ophe­lia and The Shel­ter of Each Oth­er, but some­thing I learned today rais­es her even high­er in my esteem. Last year, she returned an award she received from the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion to protest the APA’s con­tin­u­ing sup­port of tor­ture by the U.S. gov­ern­ment. The arti­cle includes her let­ter to the APA, and I encour­age you to read it.

Boo Sickness! Recipe, Word Geeking, Reviews

This not-flu or whatever is exceedingly tiresome. I should think it would be enough to live with the day to day stuff, let alone put up with this. Then again, nobody has ever claimed in my hearing that the world is fair.

MélusineI haven't succeeded in holding any thoughts in my head long, so you're in for randomness again this entry.

I have no idea why the main article was linked from ZDNet, but doesn't this cheddar and apple sandwich seem yummy? I wonder how it would be with ham? I used to have a really good recipe for a sausage and apples dish, but I know I haven't cooked it in the last decade. Maybe I could dig it out of my ancient recipe box? There are few ways to go wrong with cooked apples, as far as I can tell.
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What do you want to read or hear?

I record­ed some more pieces, but need to wait for Sam to “pro­duce” them (clean them up and add appro­pri­ate music). One of them isn’t some­thing I would have cho­sen myself, but Todd, who cre­at­ed Live Read­ings, asked to hear oth­ers read it. It turned out bet­ter than I thought it would. And it was fun to do some­thing that I wouldn’t have cho­sen.

So it’s request time! What would you like me to record, or write about?
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