When I was young, I grew just a little bit more knowledgeable with each passing year. Partly because I was going to school where it was someone’s job to teach me new things, but part of it was just that as I grew older, I also acquired more understanding of the world around me and how it worked. Yet somewhere along the line, that process has reversed. Now with each passing year, I seem to be a little more out-of-touch with the modern world and a little less knowledgeable about almost everything.
I blame technology for a big part of this, since it is evolving much faster than I can possibly handle, and it is also invading nearly every aspect of my life. Take, for example, the telephone. I vividly remember when I first learned to use a telephone, and how I promptly called my grandmother to brag about it. I think I was about four, and I know that the phone had a rotary dial. My mastery of the telephone lasted for many years, through the advent of push-button phones, wireless phones and even the multi-line phone I had to answer at my first job. Then along came the “smart phone.” I know how to use less than a third of the apps on it, and it took me over a week to figure out how to disable the annoying chime it decided to emit each time I got a new email. Which means that when it comes to my telephone skills, I’ve actually lost ground.
Sadly, my understanding of the cultural and fashion trends around me is also slipping. I came of age in the Seventies, which means that I have many cringe-worthy photos of me during my teenage years, and am reluctant to pass judgement on the fashion choices of today’s young people. Even so, I admit that I don’t get the reason for the popular “man bun.” Maybe I spent too much time waiting for my mom to get her bun exactly right before our family could go anywhere (she wore her hair in a bun for years), but I don’t see why any young man would voluntarily go to the time and trouble to put his hair in a bun when a simple ponytail would do. And I really don’t get why he would want to cover it up in a cute little knitted cap.
As an English major, I spent years learning the proper use of the English language and the complicated rules of grammar, and felt confident in my ability to fashion a sentence that was not only clear but grammatically correct. And then along came the word-processing programs with built-in spell check (which I do like) and grammar check. I can’t tell you how many times I’m happily writing when the dreaded green underline shows up, alerting me to a grammar mistake. I move the words around, consult my grammar books, change the punctuation, grind my teeth, and swear profusely, but the green underline doesn’t go away. After a while, I just ignore it and keep writing, but my confidence in my grammar skills is shaken, and I’m faced with yet another area where I’m back-sliding.
I have heard people say that the secret to successfully aging is to keep learning new things, and I believe that is true. I just didn’t realize that the reason I needed to keep learning new things is that if I don’t, the time may well come when I don’t understand anything at all.