In junior high school, a concept that no longer exists, we were required to take a course in typing, to prepare us for the future. We each sat in front of a typewriter, a machine that no longer exists, that had no letters on the keys. Instead we had to look up at the blackboard, replaced by white boards, with a chart that had all the letters on the keys. We were not allowed to look down at the keyboard but had to learn which fingers were used for which letters. Home base was “a,s,d,f—j,k,l,;” The thumb was only used to hit the space bar! I got pretty good at it and could type a lot of words a minute- which was how we were scored- words per minute and accuracy, another obsolete concept. You always indented 5 spaces to start a new paragraph, and after a period you had to have 2 spaces. Simple, easy to understand and easy to read! All that has changed over the years. My life is like the typing class! Things were simple and consistent giving me a sense of security and comfort.
But just lik….ooops
But just like typing, life as changed as well. Things that I used to feel comfortable with and safe have evolved to things that are not as comfortable for me today. I would like to say Change is my middle name! But I would have to change my first name to Can’t! Of course I know change is inevitable, I grew taller, went through puberty, my voice changed, hair styles changed, friends moved on and new ones entered my life, I couldn’t wait to be older! Sorry I spent so much time wishing for that one! Life goes on……and most of the time we don’t even realize it is happening. The changes just get incorporated into our lives and we don’t even realize it.
I have been thinking about my Aunt Eleanor, who was born in 1907 and lived to be 99. In her lifetime there were incredible changes, advances in every possible field and life in general. I wish I had asked her how she dealt with it. From horse and buggies, to motor cars, from walk up apartments to elevators, ice boxes to refrigerators, it is mind boggling. But through it all she survived and prospered. She went from being a tatter in the garment district in NYC to being a key punch operator for Horn and Hardarts. No such jobs exist today. Things are constantly changing. As kids we used to make crank calls. Picked a number from the phone book (remember those?) called the number and when the person answered we would ask, “Is your refrigerator running? and when they would answer yes we would suggest they better run after it! Harmless! Today I get crank calls all the time that there is a problem with a bill but they can fix it if I send them $200. in gift cards. I’m too smart for that, but there are many people, especially seniors who get scared and do it. I guess my point is that change isn’t always good.
I wonder what Aunt Eleanor thought when a man walked on the moon?
I have adapted to change out of necessity! Can’t say I like it all but I have to learn to live with it. At my age now, with my body working slower and my mind in rhythm with my body, things can sometimes be difficult. I have a lot of friends who are pretty technical and can ride with the tide all of these computer advances, while a smaller group of us have to be pulled along into acceptance whether we like it or not. My friends schedule activities and say they have to check their phones. Phones are for calling people not for keeping track of stuff! I, however have to wait to get home and check my wall calendar to see if I am available on that date. Laughter and jeering subside after a few moments. I also get all my bills through the US Post Office, an admirable institution and neatly pile all my bills on my desk until it is time to write the checks and record them in my little register to make sure I don’t over draw my resources. You should hear my friends then……guffaws, you still write checks???? Yeah! I still write checks and still balance my checkbook, how else do you know how much money you have? I can take being the dinosaur of the group and being the brunt of all the jokes but it is one place where life slows down and I can comfortably deal. I will let you in on a little secret… I still double space after a period and no amount of joking will make me change. And even though I have learned to text on my phone, I can never do it with my thumbs. My one pointer finger sends all my messages and I’m proud of it.
Call me old fashioned, I have been called a lot worse. I sit on my back porch with a glass of wine and my dog and in that peace and quiet, I take solace from that one brief moment where nothing seems to change, and all is good with the world!
Doing the Two Space
It’s interesting how we all criticized our elders’ resistance to change – until we became them! Is it possible that each generation enacts change partially to distinguish themselves from their forebears?
A lot of change is effective technical or cultural enhancement, but a portion is simply fashion… like demonizing punctuation (and maybe the two-space guidance after a period). That sort of change for change’s sake leaves me cold if I can’t see a tangible benefit. In fact, I see a degradation of information by eliminating periods or other markers which help stage manage communication. A continued trend toward simplification in language increases the speed of communication, but not the quality. If you figure that George has inserted those two spaces between sentences at least 100,000 times in his life, you have to conclude that it is a pretty well-worn behavior – and that he’s really good at it. So why change?
Needless change distracts from other important tasks – and it’s made more difficult by ‘proactive inhibition’. That’s when the old behavior competes with the new resulting in a lot of inconsistency. It’s worse, when the change is not much different than the old behavior (one space after a period). Change is also practice. The temptation is to stick with the tried and true (e.g., adding two spaces after the punctuation). It not only (literally) makes a statement, but it also expresses homage to those who taught you – a mark of loyalty. And it sets the azimuth of reality at a comfortable angle.
Yet, there are plenty of innovations that are worthy of adoption – perhaps even necessary for safety and survival. Years ago, I took a class with Margaret Mead titled Culture and Communication, in which she underlined the speed of cultural acquisition – the ability of disparate cultures to integrate breakthroughs introduced in far-away places. Good ideas travel quickly! However, she also believed that the rate of change was rapidly accelerating, leaving some individuals incapable or unwilling to make the leap that cultural change demands. Her example (at that time) was how the children raised on TV differed from their WWII predecessors who lived in a world of radio and print communication. I wonder what she would have thought of the generation raised by the holy trinity of internet, wi-fi and cell phone?
To large degree, we all tend to stick with the tried and true, but what might work at low-tide, is a losing proposition at high-tide. Settling-in can also mean sinking under. Some of my older friends eschewed computers and internet service as unwanted complications — and found that neighbors knew more about their children’s activities (through social media) than they did. They discovered that vaccination appointments had to be made online. One could rightly argue that there should be safety nets for the vulnerable (or simply stubborn) segments of our society, but the message is clear that it is unwise to ignore the tidal influence of change.
“We’re Only Haunted…” by Bridgett Devoue
we’re only haunted
by the things
Experience has provided the opportunity for me to understand and embrace change. Like George, I don’t always seek it or relish that which is thrust upon me, but I accept that change is inevitable and ongoing. Nothing really stays the same. Just like the saying that you can’t step into the same river twice, everything around us, including us, is in a constant state of change.
I remember watching my grandmother forcefully resist change. What she was taught and what she taught her children was the right way. She was certain that her definition of manners and discipline were everlasting and the modern, more casual behaviors with dress, how children treated adults, and dating outside one’s religion would lead to society’s downfall. Her children’s taste in music was questionable but listening to and watching such wanton people as Elvis Presley convinced her of the demise of my generation. And when Russia launched Sputnik in 1957 she knew that climatic anomalies were the consequences of dabbling in areas we weren’t meant to be. She knew what she knew and no logic or other forms of reasoning were going to change that. When I entered my twenties, I vowed to remember the things I so loved about my grandmother but not to close my mind to an ever-changing world and isolate that part of myself from my children and grandchildren.
Fast forward to today and I find myself better understanding from whence she came as well as George’s happy place on his porch, with his dog and a glass of wine. But I also appreciate that my high school typing class allows me to use the computer with relative ease and my enthusiasm for learning new things has endured these many years so that I look forward to the latest IPhone, the software updates on my Tesla, and learning the sport of pickle ball in my seventies. I admit I sometimes vacillate between the “simplicity” of the good old days when there seemed to be fewer choices that then seemed limiting but now feel less complicated, and the wonders of today’s limitless technologies that help make our lives easier and medically, more repairable. And I also realize, that it’s how I bring myself to each change that I face, that helps decide whether it is friend or foe.
Change is inevitable
Growth is optional
– John C. Maxwell
“Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future” -John F. Kennedy