Not everything was bad

It’s not that uncommon that we overlook them in our hectic everyday life – the older people, who are always a little too slow for that short time when the pedestrian light turned green. We might run past them while everything resolves around our own universe: our own values that we might have, our own way of raising our children, our work and the ways we live and love. So it’s pretty easy for us to categorize values of the older generation as outdated. But is that really justified?

Just a brief glimpse through the life of our grandparent’s generation gives us an idea of the experiences they’ve made. War, Hitler, the baby boom, Elvis, colored TV, the Berlin wall, the internet – how could you ever expect to know more than someone who isn’t able to pass the pedestrian crossing in time? What is left of older values in today’s world and what is it ‘worth’?

Many values that had to be upheld at a time when women had to ask their husbands for permission to work, we’re glad to have given up. Binary gender roles, a traditional family image at all costs, be a good wife to your husband, boys donÄt cry – who needs that today? We don’t.

That’s the good thing that we and our parents have worked so hard for over time. That we can shape our own ways of life today, detached from norms or expectations that need to be met. In a supposedly equal society, everyone can at least work to become who they want and with whom they want to be.

But – it wasn’t all just bad!

No matter how old or outdated views might be, shouldn’t we all activate our moral compass every now and then? It’s not as if we (at least I) all always live in tireless happiness all the time. Perhaps that’s precisely what constitutes satisfaction – to look back and think about: What do I want to take with me, what do I want to leave behind? As enlightened and modern as we claim ourselves to be: Sometimes an exchange of views with the generations before us is the key. We can still learn from our parents and grandparents – and vice versa.

Those of us who still have grandparents may know this scenario. Now and then you sit together and it seems as if you’re living in different worlds. “Can you send me this via fax?” – asked my 97-year-old grandmother lately. “Huh, I’ll just send it via Whatsapp!”

Short communication channels, maximum mobility and the associated flexibility, an unspoken understanding of tolerance and cosmopolitanism are values that the previous generation is often fascinated about. At the same time, I think the exchange is extremely important in order to put these values to the test. The urge to always keep moving in the fastest way, for example. IT has its pitfalls that affect society as a whole: > throwaway society, in which there’s 12 million tons of food waste annually in Germany alone wouldn’t exist if we lived like a large part of our grandparents did. 

If we would repair our broken things rather than buying new ones like people used to, there would be significantly less scrap. Everyone knows that supply determines the demand. And it’s not just about the old hair dryer, which just doesn’t work anymore – it’s about broken friendships, relationships and so much more. 

Yes, sometimes life has to be turned around, sometimes we have to change the given situation and luckily nowadays that’s usually possible even if the road is sometimes bumpy. However, new isn’t always better – we actually know that, right? 

In conclusion, there are of course values that are still worth striving for today. We just have to remain flexible enough to consider reflecting about something rather that devalue the old as categorically obsolete. Because as I said earlier – how could you expect to be wiser that someone who has already seen so much more than you ever will? We know ourselves that every stumble, every loss, every hurdle has made us a little smarter.

So if there is one thing I wish to learn from my grandmother, it’s her being humble towards her own life. Being glad that you are (sometimes more sometimes less) healthy, make your own choices, educate yourself – how damn much is that worth anyways?

Contentment isn’t only the epitome of personal sustainability in my eyes, I think it also frees you tremendously from expectations that cannot be fulfilled – both for yourself and for the outside. With that in mind – amen, and cheers to getting older every day!


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