Many of my friends are much younger than me and this is something I value very much. Some of my contemporaries might think it strange that I prefer to spend time with people half my age or less. I do have older friends and in the last two weeks I had lunch with two close friends who are in their sixties.
How did this situation come about and what have I gained from friendships with these young people? Let me explain.
I am in my early fifties (I will tell you the exact age if you really want to know), and happily married with two daughters aged 19 and 22. Naturally these young ladies are my closest friends and I have always enjoyed seeing the world through their eyes and sharing their challenges, frustrations as well as the good times and happiness.
Over the last 8 years I have been a member of a Toastmasters club in a northern suburb of Sydney. I joined this club to further develop my presentation skills. I had been in Toastmasters from 1988 to 1991 but dropped out as my wife and I were very busy raising our first daughter.
I decided to rejoin Toastmasters in 2004 as a close friend from this club suggested I could be interested in a club that meets in the morning. My evenings were usually busy with occasional school music concerts and other events, and I didn’t want to go out at night on a regular basis.
Toastmasters is an organisation which people join to improve communication skills, develop leadership skills and to work on personal growth and self development. As well as improving my skills of speech writing, delivering a speech and comedy, I enjoyed the challenge of entering speech contests. On some occasions I won club contests, and competed in Area and Division contests.
One of my great pleasures is helping others learn and grow. I didn’t want my many years of Toastmasters experience to go to waste so I became active in mentoring new members and encouraging their development as a speaker. This the reason I have stayed with Toastmasters for so long. I get such a thrill seeing people go from being shy and nervous to a confident communicator. There is a saying that in order to really know something, teach it to someone else.
Many people joining my Toastmasters club are aged in their 20s or 30s. I have found that I relate to these people very well probably because of my many years of experience as a parent. About four years ago, a 19 year old university student joined our club. She was only two years older than my older daughter and I admired the courage of this young lady who had joined the club to build her confidence. I became her mentor and gave feedback on her speeches and advice on how to do various meeting roles. I encouraged her to be part of the club committee and she took on the role of membership officer. Since that time I got to see the world through her eyes as university student in the 21st century and the challenges she faces.
I decided to write down why I like having younger friends. I hope some of these people read this article, give me feedback and maybe leave a comment.
I like seeing the world through their eyes. Sometimes I feel a bit jaded and things which were once exciting to me have become too familiar or I stop noticing them. It often takes a young person to make me aware of these and it is fun to share my experience. Maybe it is a particular cuisine, film, music or travel experience. One of my close friends is learning the guitar, and I enjoy sharing the experience of being an adult music learner.
Young people usually have an enthusiasm for life which is infectious. I like to be reminded of the countless opportunities available in the world. Being around young people who have a zest for life and excitement about the future make me feel young and happy.
My younger friends have grown up in a world that is far different to when I was at school. Imagine going through school without computer, internet, Google, Wikipedia, mobile phones, MP3 players, email, text messages, chat programs. I got through school and university without these, yet young people couldn’t imagine how they could survive without this technology. Parties were organised through phone calls or an invitation in the mail, but now it is done with a Facebook event.
Many of the things I am interested in are of interest to my younger friends. Sharing the appreciation of a Chopin Nocturne or Beethoven piano sonata is something I can do with my 40 year old piano playing friendas well as an 18 year old or 80 year old. Many things in life transcend age differences.
I would like to think that I can enrich the lives of these very special young people with my friendship, support and genuine caring.
Thank you for your friendship.