I decided to venture out to the Botanic Gardens this morning to join them for their early AM T’ai Chi. I got there bright and early at 6:30 knowing that they began at 7:15. When I arrived I noticed a sign that said the event was sponsored by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons)…no wonder they didn’t stop me at the gate when I arrived that early, I’ve got plenty of years to work.
I walked around the garden for a bit and then saw a huge group of people being held at the gate waiting for entry. That’s where I was supposed to be, but I had walked in with no obstruction earlier. I guess the AARP hosts thought I worked at the garden. I decided I would leave since everyone I saw waiting to get in was at least 20 years my senior. I felt like I was intruding, like a fish out of water.
After I left the confines of the garden I noticed some people closer to my age attending the event. I had excluded myself. No one asked me to leave. There were no actions or words spoken to make me feel uncomfortable, and yet I felt like the odd man out. I could have reverted back to my Sesame Street days and sang “One of these things is not like the others”, but I decided to play it cool.
It got me thinking about how we exclude ourselves in the world. I felt that I needed to take responsibility for my own internalized self-ageist behavior. It made me think about the group work I did with those challenged with cancer, especially the men who battled breast cancer. If they didn’t make their presence known it was always assumed they were the spouse. They had to make a conscious and concerted effort to include themselves in the breast cancer dialogue.
I think I’ll go back next week and be a good pilgrim, facing my own self-imposed alienation and be a participant. I have a better understanding about how excluding myself can deprive me of what can be some of the best moments of my life.