Never Too Young, Never Too Old 

Have you noticed that it has become acceptable for people who you have just met to grill you under the guise of casual conversation?

On numerous occasions, new acquaintances have immediately asked me the following questions completely off topic:

How old are you?
Where did you go to school?

Usually, this occurs right after I have explained an experience I’ve had or an academic opinion. I suppose they need that information to classify me. Am I smart for my age? Am I on track for my age? Do I have the right education to make my opinion count? How do I compare to them?

Here’s the thing: I don’t care if someone subconsciously feels the need to classify me. I will never answer the first question and most of the time I avoid the second. Perhaps I am asked those questions because I am young, which is even further argument not to answer. The fact that I feel so strongly over those questions may seem strange to you, but is it not along the same lines as asking:

How much do you make?
What kind of car do you drive?
What religion are you?
What’s your sexual orientation?
What race are you?

All of the above are questions for classification and comparison. And, for that very reason, some of the above are illegal to ask in job interviews. I am an open, honest person, (evidenced by this site,) so I am easy to get to know. There is no need to ask me questions; I am fully capable of continuing conversation without prodding.

Last week someone pointed out that my refusal to answer about my schooling hindered our conversation, and therefore was “kinda weird.” Said person scolded, “I was asking you so that I could see your experience and then share mine.” To which, I thought to myself, if you really wanted to have that conversation with a new acquaintance, you would first talk of your schooling experiences and then wait to see if I offered my stories. Then, it would have been on topic and much less invasive. Or, you could ask a very general question, such as “Tell me your story. What brought you to LA and how did you get here?” etc.

I do not think we realize that sometimes we can all be pushy and rude when meeting new people. Then, we think it weird when someone does not want to give us personal information that we were never entitled to in the first place? Most of the time, we ask because we use this information to classify and compare someone to ourselves and other people. Even though most of the time this information would work for me instead of against me, I’m not party to the game. In addition, I have been happier since concentrating on not obtaining comparative information from others.

Most people don’t realize how much we use age to classify and compare. I never ask anyone how old they are because, once you are 18, or close to, I do not believe the years matter. (I only name 18-ish because, most of the time, the learning curve evens out.) Everyone is on their own track at their own pace and on their own level of experience, maturity and wisdom. It is better to know the person as they are in the present and not be thinking, “He’s crazy to be starting his life over. He should be further along.” Or “How can I compete with her? She’s a year younger and has done more than me!” I have found that when people do not know your age, they assume you to be of an age that they are comfortable with. I find this to be a good thing.

Again, if you want to know something about a person, I say introduce the topic with your own stories and see what the other person is interested in discussing in regard to their personal information. If they don’t offer it up, they probably don’t care to speak of it for whatever reason. Perhaps they merely have a philosophy about age and classification as I do, or perhaps it’s a sore subject.

So, that is my age philosophy. Now, here is my American education philosophy. (Or, rant.) Undergraduate University degrees are becoming increasingly devalued. (Unless you attended Ivy League.) Many students are turned out with a diploma in May without a specialty or skill. They know a good deal in general, and they will probably forget most of it from not putting that knowledge into use. (Ex. An English major will most likely forget most of his required Geology lessons, unless he is writing about or researching Geology.) One needs a Masters now to learn a skill and be considered qualified for many jobs. If one does an apprenticeship, one will have the skills needed to perform the job and opportunity to develop their talents into their own signature and style, but will not be able to apply for a job because one needs a degree. It doesn’t even have to be a degree in the category that the job falls under. This is ridiculous because many of these individuals are more skilled, talented and, therefore, qualified. It is merely a screening process.

Americans take education for granted. It is not an entitlement. It is not time for you to get Cs and still get your degree. I was astounded to find that most of the work done at University in England is not graded. Students do the work and do it well because they want to. They want to be there. They want to learn. It is not something they are owed or have a right to.

I don’t think a degree makes you worth listening to. Titles and diplomas, like anything else, are tools and only worth how much you sharpen and use them. Merely hanging a tool on your belt for display does not mean that you know how to put it to good use. Any fool can get himself a hammer. Furthermore, if you aren’t able to form your own opinion based on the speaker and the facts, and not where they went to school, that’s on you.

We should all be aware of the way we interact with people and how we choose to go about knowing them. We do ourselves a disservice by using society’s categories, (age, education, money…) to classify the individual before knowing them outside of these topics, which, despite what the rules of society tell us, often have little to do with personality or intelligence.

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