And so time marches on


By the time you’re a young adult, eighteen to early twenties, the people who will become the next generation of young adults are seven to twelve years behind you – at that time children, or at most teenagers to whom you pay little attention.

By the time you are thirty, that next group of birthlings are ready to take over the spots you and your age group had recently vacated as “young adults”.

By the time you are 35, that group of people are themselves between 23 and 28, which means it’s not uncommon for you to warm your hands at the same barbeque fire as at least the older members of the next generation. Friendships might be forged, and you may even get romantically involved with someone from this generation.

Time goes on. You hit forty. If you haven’t worked it out or noticed it yet, it will hit you soon enough: Yet another generation has made their appearance; people who are between seven and twelve years younger than the generation that had followed on your peer group. These new members of adulthood are at this stage ranging from high school age to mid-twenties.

And you know: If the world belongs to people with the most energy and vitality and ambition and even naïve idealism, the world now belongs to this group of young adults.

You reach the ripe age of 45, and the oldest members of that whole second generation who had reached maturity after you are now 30 years old. Some of them are married. Some have children. Chances are that they work for you, but it is also possible that you work for one of them, that a member of this generation is giving you instructions on what to do and what not to do.

You are mostly a stranger to this “second” group of new adults, but you have a reasonable idea of what’s important to them. References to their tastes and preferences are commonplace on TV and in everyday conversations, and it is their musings and ramblings that are pushed to the top of literary websites.

Chances are slim that your social circles will ever overlap. You shuffle past each other in crowded pubs. If you find yourself in a situation where silence would be awkward, they might be reluctant to say too much because they might expect that you’ll be as critical as their parents about their appearance and the choices they make. You may also not be too talkative because you wouldn’t want to sound old, and heaven forbid you create the impression you’re trying to be cool.

And so time marches on. The forties, remarked someone who had gone through the strange process years ago, mark the old age of your youth – your fifties being the youth of old age.

One thing about this fifth decade of your earthly existence is nothing new: If you’re lucky enough to slow down every now and then in the rush to stay alive, you might just find yourself once again trying to sort out who and what you are and who you want to be, more or less based on who you were ten and twenty years ago, and considering who and what you hope to be in the future – provided you’re still to be found in the land of the living in another two or three decades’ time.