A Spark for Change: Age is but a Number

erin-parker-familyThe 20s are like the month of March. They come in like a lion and leave like a lamb. What starts as one crazy blur turns into stabilizing days filled with routine that wasn’t possible or wanted years before. I am quickly moving my way into my late twenties, seeing my days with no cares far in my rearview mirror and my future shining brightly ahead. There is one lesson that I stumbled upon just because of a personality quirk that is a must for everyone. It is one that completely changed my life, and it has the power to do the very same for others: Befriend and spend a great deal of time with those who are at least 10-20 years older than you. Here is why…

1) They have already walked down your path.

My three best friends are at least 10 years older than me, which has steered me away from disasters. I realize life should be organic and unplanned in most cases; however, why put yourself in the midst of chaos if it can be helped? We 20-year-olds spent our teen years using up the “No one understands what I am going through” line, and somehow we truly believed it. I quickly learned that quip never has and never will be true. My friends have all gone through similar ups and downs and were more than willing to help me tip toe around tricky situations before it was too late. I personally am not a glutton for punishment and enjoy being spared pain, embarrassment, or any other unwanted feeling.

We have to stop thinking we know everything because the truth is we don’t, and that’s okay. Asking for advice and help doesn’t make you weak; it makes you better. I constantly run questions, problems, and decisions to be made by my friends. Never once have they told me I had to do something. They know the choice is ultimately mine, but they will always give me a clear vision of what could be. Knowing that people I trust implicitly understand what’s happening in my life is a irreplaceable comfort. Life is like wearing tennis shoes on an ice skating rink. Every step is can be a fun adventure or a wicked fall. Allow yourself to have hands to steady your steps.

2) They fill multiple roles in your life.

My older friends are gifts from above. I have a built in older sister, mentor, and second mother with each friendship. In one phone call I can ask about if it’s ok to take cough syrup with my antibiotics, cry about a relationship that never was, question my life path, and laugh about the previous night of fun. They can handle it all. Being mothers themselves and remembering what it was like to walk in my shoes not too long ago, they are careful with my heart and dreams. They aren’t rash or degrading. They are deliberate and cognizant about how they treat me. They respect that I am an adult, but they love me like I am their kid sister.

Because of all of this, I find myself going to them first. It’s a safe ear, never wanting to broadcast my ups and downs for morning gossip. It’s a calming presence, always knowing how to alleviate a tumultuous situation before it becomes too big to handle. It’s an extra set of eyes, already knowing where the prizes and pitfalls lie. It’s all this and more, and let’s be honest, life is filled to the brim with disastrous and delightful moments. Some moments require mom, some a sister, and some a friend. Why not have someone who is all of those?

3) You have your very own examples of how you want to be.

Too often, our generation looks to women who flourish on the big screen or who dazzle on the radio as our sources of inspiration and guidance. While I have undying admiration for Oprah, Arianna Huffington, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Brene Brown, the three ladies I want most to be like are the ones whom I am blessed to call my friends. These women epitomize all that I find right in the world. Assuming that you choose friends who are as strong in moral character as you, having older friends is an everyday reminder of what you want to be. I watch them deal with disappointments with such grace and resolve that I am able to model resilience when faced with setbacks of my own. I watch them lead and inspire at work, and it ignites a passion inside of me to chase after my purpose and passion. I watch them extend an empathetic and compassionate hand to everyone they come in contact with, and my heart literally aches to be as remarkable as them. Priorities shift once you climb into your thirties, and there is nothing better than having people you love show you every day what truly matters.

4) You serve as a gift to them, too.

Three incredible and undeniable reasons to cultivate relationships with those who are older than you, right? I have lived this as long as I can remember, and I will wholeheartedly say that it is the single biggest factor in who I am today. I have always believed that these friendships were more give than take, with me predominately on the receiving end. I am the one they watch out for, guide, and comfort; however, I can assure both ends of the friendship provide just as much joy. For the young ones, we’re a daring spirit, having not yet been fully jaded. We’re a fresh perspective and sense of spontaneity that for them had to be put on the shelf when the major responsibilities of life arose. We can offer help with the new trends and lingo. I’ll never forget the time my friend, in her 40s, innocently yelled down the hallway at a student and said, “Betsy, you’re ratchet!” It was said with such love by my friend, even accompanied with claps, but all the color drained out my face. Ratchet is the last thing any student wants to be called, especially by a teacher, but my friend heard the term and thought it was a synonym for cool. This is where we come in handy. I, after laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of the situation, was able to explain to my friend the true meaning and why it’s best not to use that adjective when describing a student or anyone for that matter.

Maybe most important, however, is what we do for the souls of our older friends. My closest friends are the most remarkable people I know, but what they do is so far engrained in who they are, they don’t even realize their skills and talents anymore. Because they have morphed into so much for so many, what makes them stand out in the eyes of everyone else has become lost in the litany of tasks to complete. We see in them all the incredible strengths they possess and serve as a reminder that they are much more than they think they are. This rekindles a flame that had been stamped out by life’s responsibilities. To remind my friends that they can lead, inspire, and create at a level I can still only dream of is one of the best gifts I can give.

The friends of a lifetime are right in front of you. Don’t waste another minute of your life worrying about age. For people my age, please take this advice and run with it. Don’t live without the ones who will serve as your compass, your soft pillow to fall on, your confidant, and your unwavering hand to hold.