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The times, they are a 'changin'

by Bob Stealey

editor

It's not a pleasant awareness to know that you're not trusted, though a lot of folks who fall into this category really couldn't care less if they tried.

To me, trust is something you have to earn. It's not "a given," in other words. I usually associate "trust" with reliability, integrity, consistency and conscientiousness on the part of the earner.

Today I'd like to refer to a different kind of trust, and I don't mean the department at the local bank. No, what I refer to here is a trust that I can only define in my own way -- not a short group of words that collectively describe a word that's in bold-face type and in alphabetical order, as you'd find in a dictionary.

Let me get to the point. When I was a teen-ager, I was looked down upon as perhaps a careless, scatterbrained, impetuous person who my elders couldn't depend upon to bring home a jug of milk safely. I must say I didn't get away with anywhere near the things that people in their teens seem able to do today.

Then time did its thing and I turned 20. I was a young man by then, a bit more likely to settle down and "get real" about the ways of the world, about my future, about providing for my family. Whether still in college or afterward, about finally deciding in which direction my career would go.

During my college years in the summers, I was rather fortunate. Each summer, I had a job. The first summer, you'd have thought I was seeking a job as a rocket scientist when mopping the floor might have been sufficient. And here's where that word trust comes into play.

I tried to get on at the State Road Commission. Even for summer work -- 10 weeks -- I felt like a basketball in the hands of the Harlem Globetrotters -- passed back and forth. At another business, I was advised to come back and see them again after completing my education. In short, I was too young and inexperienced and undereducated.

Finally, I found a person willing to give me a "shot" at working for AAA for four consecutive summers. I moved on to jobs more befitting my career interests. Still, I was "only" in my 20s and too young to be trusted with anything very heavy.

Enter the 30s. A bit older and a bit wiser was I, yet still thought of as flighty and "not ready for prime time" yet, from an experience point of view.

I had serious work now, though, and that was what I'd been seeking. I may have been too old for the twentysomethings, but got along pretty well with the 30s crowd.

The 40s for me were somewhat of an evening up process, coming into my own right as having added a few more years of experience to my dossier.

In fact, it was a more turbulent decade for me than my 30s.

I actually felt younger, more energetic and was in a position of responsibility. But in my own mind, I felt still that I was only part-way up the "ladder." But I was too old for the thirtysomethings by now.

Next, the golden 50s. However, everything seems so different now. Finally in my prime? Maybe. But I thought in my 20s that I'd be even further along in my career than I was when I hit "the big 5-0." At least I'm still employed, which I wish I could say for some other "golden-agers" who are now out of work through no fault of their own after paying their dues for years -- victims of corporate finagling and positioning.

Yet now, in my 50s, I'm seeing three twenty- or thirtysomethings for every person like me, and you can take that about any way you'd like. Yes, I'm probably an obstacle to them, much like a fossilized jag of rock that juts out obstructing the whitewaters of life.

Almost in one fell swoop, I've gone from a flighty underling who was tolerated to -- in the minds of the younger set -- a soon-to-be candidate for the old folks' home who's to be tolerated.

Sorry to disappoint them, but that's in their view, not mine. And what they think is none of my business.

Have a great week!

Bob Stealey can be reached at 304-626-1438 or by e-mail at rstealey@exponent-telegram.com

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