I know how it feels. A friend says, I just downloaded an app that does blah blah blah, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. And you’re like, great, but what you really want to say is, I don’t care, because my life just doesn’t move that fast any more…
Or you’re with your son and daughter-in-law and they’re talking about some new music/musician. You play along like you know this person and their music even though you have no idea who they’re talking about…
Other days, you just get the gnawing feeling that what you have to contribute seems a little bit like old news…
The terror is: I’m not relevant any more. Good God, just shoot me. Soon, people will stop speaking to me and I’ll die alone in my apartment half eaten by my six cats.
Here’s a weirdly comforting thought (to me): were you ever really relevant? Unless you’re a working scientist or doctor, someone who must stay current to function, it’s natural that our worlds grow smaller. Kids move away, jobs end, and so on. It’s normal to grow away from what younger generations are involved in.
Why can’t we accept this? For one thing, American culture worships youth and in large measures, dismisses older people. Stop thinking this will change, even if we get a new, cool president! It won’t.
Personally, even when I was relevant, I wasn’t particularly earth-shaking. Maybe in my little world I was, but isn’t that all most of us ever have: a limited sphere of influence?
So: What does it mean to be relevant?
Its opposite is a mean little word: irrelevant. A little robotic. Even Merriam-Webster’s use-it-in-a-sentence cuts to the cruel real world examples: “What companies need is relevant advice. The candidate’s experience isn’t relevant to the job. People may find it difficult to stay relevant in this changing world.”
You got that right, Merriam-Webster.
Don’t panic. This nonstop struggle to be “appropriate to the current time, period or circumstances; of contemporary interest” has two sides: how the world looks at you, and how you look at yourself.
You can’t control how the world looks at you. You think you can: you only post the jolly stuff on social media, you search and destroy the uglies. Still, you can’t control what people think of you.
What can you control?
How you look at yourself.
You’ve heard this before. Stay with me please.
I think what being relevant REALLY means, is being cool. Remember cool? Cool was, and still is, being 100% true to yourself. With all the pressures around, how easy is it to lose track of this??? I believe that the more passionately you follow your interests, the more relevant you’ll be. And: cool.
Real life example:
I love bees, always have. Was intimidated about becoming a beekeeper, but I tried it out, starting with a small hive. Result? Loved it. All my friends wanted to know about it. People linked, liked, loved. Met other beekeepers who told me amazing things, about the environment, the lives of bees/insects/animals. Beautiful doors opened to other experiences, fabulous people. All this from a beehive.
Am I suddenly young? Hip? All that other bullshit? Not so much. All I can say is, I was never more miserable than when I was young and hip and relevant, because I was also stupid. Now, I’m relevant in a world I created and continue to create, that I love and that’s important to me.
So have faith in your own inherent relevance and coolness. The world will love you for it.