When you get your ticket punched to Geezer City, your consolation prize is a cup of wisdom. Sadly, that wisdom comes from years of doing the wrong thing and seeing how it turns out in your own life.
For instance, I'm intensely glad that there was no Blogger or Facebook when I was an impetuous youth. If you are an impetuous youth reading this, you've probably already been around the block and learned a sharp lesson about social media.
But what about the in-betweeners? The people who are neither savvy young people nor creaky change-of-lifers? Those are the folks getting themselves into trouble.
I friended a few of my school colleagues on Facebook. Not many. Just a few that I work with closely. These few are mostly in their thirties and early forties.
Last Friday, my school district threw a dinner party for the employees. It was free for the staff and $15 if you wanted to bring a spouse.
I would rather spend an evening scrubbing my basement floor than to go to a party with people I see all day long. (This shows I'm a geezer.) So I didn't go. Friday is drum circle night anyway. I didn't even have to scrub the basement.
Actually, not many of my colleagues went, either. But a goodly cluster of them had their own party at another venue. And they posted a beery photo on Facebook the next morning.
I looked at the photo and recognized everyone in it. If I was in my thirties, I would have been crushed to not be asked to hang out with the office clique. However, I'm in my fifties. When I looked at that photo I did not see a bunch of folks I would love to drink with, but rather a largish group of adults who should know better than to pose for a group photo in a party setting and then post it on a social media site where their colleagues and employers might see it.
Some of my co-workers are deeply hurt that they weren't invited to the side party. They saw the photo on Facebook and realized what they had missed (whatever that was).
I look at that photo from the perspective of an alcoholic. Chances are, in my thirties I might have been in that picture. Now all I see in it is the bad outcomes it could have for the people I work with who haven't reached my stage in life. I feel for them. It's a stressful job we have, and this is how they are handling it. I know, because until the summer of 2012, I was handling it by doing the tango with Tanqueray each and every night. Only when my daughters could take no more and called me out did I drop the green bottle and do a little reflecting.
It's a shame it had to come to that.
So, when I see a party photo and know most of the people in it, and know they are under stress, I think to myself, "When will they reach the milestone I reached, and how will they get there?"
I hope their outcome is better than mine, and that their parties become placid and stodgy over time. Better yet, I hope they reach a day when they'd rather be anywhere but a bar.
This is not a sermon from a church lady. This is the hard-won wisdom of bad mistakes and rotten decision-making. I'm not predicting anyone's doom here. I just hope their lives turn out okay.