I have always fancied myself as a bit of a geek. I needed information and knowledge like MJ needed his propofol. I never hung out with the popular kids in high school – no cheerleaders and jocks for me. I liked going to the library and craved the internet long before anyone even imagined its existence. I never joined a sorority in college but rather was an editor at our campus newspaper – along with the other nerds (I love you all). I wore glasses at 10 (before glasses were cool) and, if my mother had invested the money, I would have had braces on my teeth for the entirety of my adolescence. As an adult, I have been an early adopter on all types of technology and, again, seem to know a little bit more than my more hip and cool peers about WANs, LANs, VPNs and other not-very-cool acronyms. I even married a guy who worked in computers (although he never identified as a geek and, bizarrely, has very little interest in technology). So, while all my friends were doing cool things like going out for cosmos on Friday nights, I was content to stay home and surf the web or play silly video games on my computer. To be perfectly candid, the reason why we originally got a Wii was not because my adorable boys begged us for one – it was for me to be able to play games. I was the first of my friends to have an iPod (so, of course, I could stay current on all the cool new music) and I caught the Mac wave and have never looked back. I have had every kind of gadget and gizmo (Palm, Treo, Blackberry, Zune, iPod, Kindle, iPhone, Vaio, Tivo, Flip – you name it). I am a media junkie. I watch CNN and every reality show known to mankind. I read People (everyone needs to stay up on Bragelina and Jon and Kate) and just about anything else I can get my hands on to stay current. I practically cried when I got my iPhone because suddenly I could be connected to all the information and technology I could dream of. And I knew at that moment that my life was complete.
All that said, I am horrified to admit that despite all of my absorption of information and technology, it appears that I have become a dinosaur. Why? Well, I am not sure if I feel into a Rip Van Winkle coma or I missed some important filmstrip somewhere but somehow things changed and I did not get the memo. It might have happened sometime between 2000 and now when I started having those little parasites suck away at my brain matter (more fondly known as my children). Perhaps the business of being a mom distracted me from being “in the know”. Maybe I spent one hour too many reading up on diaper rash or figuring out the real meaning behind Sponge Bob and everything swept past me, leaving me behind, mouth agape and very confused.
When I turned 40 several (cough, cough) years ago, I was excited. I felt like I was entering into the prime period of my life. My career was established, my family was built, I owned a home, had a network of friends and had nearly 20 years of therapy under my belt. I was ready to take on the world. Some of my friends did not approach this midlife period with as much enthusiasm as me and I could not understand what their reluctance was to finally have arrived. 40 seemed substantial. I no longer felt trivial and young and foolish. I felt that 40 validated me and that, along with this new number, I would carry some new sophistication and awareness. It never occurred to me that I might also actually become JUST LIKE MY MOTHER. (Well, anyone who knows me knows that I am not just like my mother but that was good dramatic effect.) Instead, I was becoming just like all of my friends’ mothers who I remember back from elementary and middle school. They wore nice clothes and seemed cool enough but they had lost touch. It was not obvious at first, but you could tell. A little bit of probing proved that they could not name 10 songs in the Top 40, could not identify who any of the heartthrobs were on the cover (or the interior of) Tiger Beat, and they had no idea why kids were so hung up on Kerbangers or MTV. No matter how hard they tried, they just could not stay current – for inexplicable reasons.
So, I sit here today wondering when and how I became a dinosaur. I mean, for crying out loud, I have a blog! How much more current can I be? I work on a Mac, I carry and iPhone with a PINK case, I read exclusively from my kindle, I send texts and I telecommute full time. I feel so freakin’ cool and hip yet I know that I have lost it. I had already come to terms with the fact that most of the doctors and other professionals I used were younger than me. I had long since gotten over the fact that the gazillionaires I read about in the business pages were a decade behind me. However, I was really taken aback when the first signs presented themselves about a year ago when I was watching some awards show and realized I had no idea who any of the actors were. Who is this Blake Lively? What is up with this Twilight phenomenon? Why don’t I recognize anyone on TV anymore? What happened to Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Glenn Close? When did Channel 11 become the CW and why is it like so cool? Strike 1.
The next signs came when, last fall, my 9 year-old got his first phone (an iPhone, for goodness sake) and my 6-year-old acquired a hand-me-down iTouch (what does that tell you about my tech appetite when in 2009 we have HAND-ME-DOWN iTouches??). I was really happy to have a way to communicate with my son other than the boring and old-fashioned way of talking. I mean, it is way more cool to text with your mom than to actually have a conversation with her, right?? However, very quickly my frustration began to rise when I realized that he had outplayed me and learned features to the phone that I would never be able to grasp. He was teaching me how to do things on the phone and I was simply not catching on. Strike 2.
The final straw came when I started working from home. I have been a staunch supporter of flexible work options and telecommuting so when the opportunity presented itself to me to be able to work from home full-time, I jumped all over it. And then the reality set in. I had no idea what it meant to actually work without having a boss or co-workers hanging over you 8 hours a day, asking you for things, nagging you, interrupting you, calling you into meetings and keeping you deliriously unproductive. I started reading about Gen Y and how they think and work and I realized that I am so out of touch. I realized that I have been programmed to work in a way that is outdated and inefficient. I quickly understood that my dinosaur status was firmly cemented in that, while I could preach all the virtues of this new way of working, I was truly unprepared to do it myself. I read a great piece in Inc magazine yesterday about an experiment they are conducting this month working virtually. I applaud them on their effort because I know it will make them better at their jobs when they can speak firsthand about what it is like to enter into this new world of work. I am finally, after nearly a year, getting used to be comfortable with my own company all day, learning how to force myself to go out to Starbucks rather than just getting a drink from my kitchen and being part of this new kind of workforce. I suppose that when my kids are older and they are working in a way that will, by then, probably have become more traditional, they won’t think of me as a pioneer or courageous to have braved a new frontier of work but, instead will assume that this is the way it always was done. And, I guess, that will be just ok with me as I communicate with them from the chip in my head and fly to their homes in the sky in my cool Jetsons-like spacemobile!