Now that he’s on the other side of 50, Ted Cartier takes a look at the how men have changed from when he entered adulthood in the 1980s.
Is being a man in 2012 different than being a man in 1982? Of course it is, at least for me. First we must answer this question: “What does being a man mean?” This is a good question, and yet one not easily answered. You can speak of taking responsibility, stepping up, being brave, or just showing up. There are endless descriptions, and while most will have elements of truth to them, they will also lack something. They may truly describe a man, but they will never describe all men. And you know what? That is OK.
But let’s go back to the original question. I believe that the definition of being a man changes continuously. Every day, to some extent, our experience grows. We have just a little more life behind us. This is not to say that we have grown wiser, but every experience has, at least, a small impact on who we are, what we believe, and what we will do going forward. It is easy to see the big experiences. They are usually clear in our minds, and their impact is more visible in our lives. As many of these experiences fade in our minds, if we were aware of them at all, their effects on us blend with other experiences, creating more evolved versions of ourselves.
Perhaps a better question would be, “Was being a 30-year-old man or a 40-year-old man in 1982 different than being a 30-year-old man or a 40-year-old man in 2012?” The answer is yes, at least from my vantage point. The worlds in those two time frames are very different worlds indeed. In 2012 the economy is different, technology is growing exponentially, and the resources on which we depend for our lives are disappearing or evolving. New families are started later in life, and most have both partners working. Our children are exposed to more information daily than we ever were at their age. Humanity continually evolves, and the world continues to change.
But what similarities do these two men share? They both want to survive and live fulfilled lives, and they both need connections with others in their lives. Yes, I know not all men are the same, but imagine the same hypothetical man in both 1983 and 2012. Both versions of this man want success in their lives, though perhaps those definitions of success may be different. Their soft skills may be more evolved in 2012, but both will be trying to understand the world around them. Both men will have fears and joys. Both men will be unprepared for some of the experiences life will throw at them, and they will cope as best they can.
If we take a look at today’s youth, I am optimistic. I see young men and women showing social concern about our world and trying to do something about it. They know they have to cope with our depleted world and are initiating changes to meet these challenges. In some ways they are more outspoken than many of the youth of bygone years, but in other ways they are less outspoken than many others. The protests of the 1960s come to mind, and I am sure history can provide many more examples of passionate youth. As a man over 50, and then some, the youth of today seem to have a more realistic view of where they are and what they have to face. At the same time I see a segment of that same youth that lives with extreme delusions of entitlement. Perhaps they aren’t that different from us after all.
The world is, and will continue to be, a changing place. And humanity will continue to change with it. We will have successes and failures; we will mourn the mistakes of our past and will swear not to make the same mistakes going forward. Sadly, and appropriately, 20 or 40 years from now, humanity will look back and ask the age-old question, “What were they thinking?”
Photo by EaglerookSchool/Flickr