Struggle for Relevance 2/28/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

When one is scuba diving, it’s not uncommon to find a “drop-off”. That is to say, swimming away from shore, the water is relatively shallow with a slow descent until, suddenly, there is a cliff-like drop-off.

It seems to me that relevance in our society has a similar drop off.

When I was young, it wasn’t difficult for me to find a job. I didn’t always get interviews, but when I was called in for an in-person interview I was always offered the position. I had some advantages; being a white male back then no doubt played a part of it. Funny thing about white privilege is that even if you don’t want it, it’s always there. Plus, I had the education necessary for the jobs that I had applied for. Nonetheless, generally an employer will call in three or four finalists for an in-person interview, and ever time I got the offer.

That’s not the case anymore.

These days, I feel as if when I apply for jobs, I’m little more than “cannon fodder”. I get the sense that my application is just one of the hundreds destined for the proverbial “round file” with each attempt, and I have thousands of failed applications to support this feeling.

I’m focusing on job applications far more than I intend to. As time marches inexorably on I’m feeling less and less relevant in pretty much every aspect of life. As far as romance is concerned, I’ve given up on the idea that I could be taken seriously as a man. As sad as it is to say, even the last two women with whom I’ve tried to have a relationship made it clear that their interest in me lasted only as long as my money did. This is a painful realization, but I guess should not have been a surprise.

I think about the men and women in retirement homes, left by families, lonely, taken care of by a staff out of a sense of duty. These are people, who have had tremendous impact in their youth. They’ve fought wars, broken glass ceilings, had children and grandchildren, saved lives, but people often don’t take them seriously anymore. They are forgotten by their families, irrelevant to a society that covets when somebody can do for us now but doesn’t seem to care about what somebody has done for us in the past.

If you’re still reading this, I think I owe you a debt of gratitude. To me, it’s reading like “sour grapes”, just an old man complaining about his lost youth. I guess I can’t say this isn’t the case, but I seem to have reached an age where I have difficulty reconciling what I have accomplished in the past and what I want to and can still accomplish today, with the difficulty of finding the opportunity to do so. I am becoming irrelevant, in the eyes of the younger generation, in the eyes of society, and even in my own eyes.

Sadly, this is something that everybody fortunate enough to reach this age will face. I don’t know of any psychological studies or books that address the issue of transitioning from youthful relevance to irrelevance.

I guess it doesn’t help that I hold so stubbornly onto things of the past. The music I listen to, my sense of romance, my desire to remain a gentleman are all from days gone by. I try very hard to be accepting of so many things today. I will support anybody’s lifestyle that doesn’t cause harm to another, and honestly, I don’t think that my own personal lifestyle is particularly healthy, either physically or emotionally. I’m far too rigid, such as with the fact that I don’t drink, my sexuality, my sense of right and wrong. These same old-fashioned and outdated unhealthy standards of behavior are the same ones that are making me less relevant as well. But what can I do? I have to live my own life as I see best. I just acknowledge that there are other lifestyles that are just as valid (if not more so) than mine.

So now is the point where I should give some sort of closing thoughts, but I don’t know that I have any to offer. Maybe it’s energy, and my fuel is about out. I suppose it’s up to us, individually, to remain relevant. Any entertainer understands that when you stop performing you become a thing of the past. Could it be that as I get older, I’m just slowing down, making me irrelevant faster than my mind wants to be? I don’t know. I may never know. But, I don’t like it.


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