I have joined the alumni of the St Albans Secondary College where I went to High School in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne in the sixties and seventies of the last century. The Principal is retiring and we are asked to contribute to a booklet of farewell messages.
It was the anniversary year of St Albans High, and I had left Australia in 1986.
Maybe one last chance to get to catchup with some old school mates, I thought.
So, we made our trip from Austria to Australia to attend the Jubilee reunion in 2016.
The following weekend we went to the Open Day at St Albans Secondary College and met the Principal Kerrie Dowsley.
I was so surprised to hear about what had become of my old High School – from lowest pass rate in the state in my graduation year, 1971 to prestige state college!
I was pleasantly surprised by the warm friendly spirit, and despite not meeting any new old school friends, I came back home to Austria with a sense of pride and satisfaction.
Thank you for your kind words and for taking time to meet with us during your busy schedule.
I appreciated coming back to a brand-new perspective of my old school. Not only had I made something of myself, despite my “disadvantaged, Western Suburbs” background, now even my old school was really providing valuable community resources and making a difference.
So, now, next level reflection.
What do I have to say to young people in 2023?
Last Tuesday, at the VIC Toastmasters meeting, I won the Table Topics session with my answer to that question. I was looking forward to receive the link to the recording so that I can edit out my response and post it separately. Many of my UN colleagues are extremely self-conscious of public visibility. Today, as the Computer Security conference continues to take place, I appreciate that it may not be a good idea to be too publicly visible.
Yet my calling is a different one now. I am called to be visible and to be public.
I urge young people today to keep channels open to the older generation. Current trends and developments are progressing so fast, it is often difficult for Baby Boomers (my generation) to keep up. Yet, we Baby Boomers are the virtual majority in the Western World. I urge young people today to ask questions and be aware of what was before. I pointed out that we had no internet or telephones when I was growing up. We got a television set when I was seven because I got hepatitis and needed to lay still to recover.
The link never came, and I contemplate (again) what am I prepared to contribute? It was at the last Toastmasters club meeting that I took control of the camera and figured out how to zoom in on participants while they were speaking from within the meeting room.
This very skill then became my asset at the WFWP side event when I also managed to receive access to the camera controls to zoom in on the speakers on the panel while I simultaneously live-streamed over Facebook.
Pros and Cons of Aging
My age is my asset in terms of wisdom and experience. However, I was feeling worn and tired as I considered whether Toastmasters would be my third virtual or first live meeting of the day. Considering I had another live meeting I wanted to attend later, I opted for virtual, in hybrid mode, knowing, that I am usually the only one who bothers about the recordings of the meetings. And despite my secret hopes and wishes that “somebody” would take care of the camera, even the previously proclaimed automatic recording function, had somehow been disabled. There was no recording.
It is June twentieth. Many of my sources are proclaiming the northern summer solstice to be a time of great change, new beginnings, and boundless opportunities.
My personal mantra to do good and be seen to be doing good is undaunted. The current Computer Security in the Nuclear World, Security for Safety Conference, now taking place at the VIC intrigues and inspires me. As a former staff member of the Division of Nuclear Security, I am inspired by what is developing. As DG Grossi points out that the first and last such conference was eight years ago, I am jolted to realize how much has happened since. I am proud to have been a contributing factor in that conference, humbled by the amazing progress since then and fascinated by the aspects which most interest me, including aging, accountability and continuity.
Aging is a factor when dealing with security of nuclear power plants. Yet aging is also an aspect of human life and experience.
Back to my Toastmasters Table Topics question:
What do I have to say to young people in 2023?
I remember working with “liquidators”, former colleagues at NSNS who had worked to decontaminate Chernobyl after the nuclear accident. These fine gentlemen were veterans who experienced the birth of the nuclear age. They continued offering their expertise until a staff ruling proclaimed that people beyond 70 could no longer serve as consultants in the office, or for travel to conferences, trainings or meetings.
Now, as I myself approach that very age, I have to admit, that some physical capacities are impaired and a little different than they were, even just a few years ago.
As I approach that age, I also think of many of my dear friends who have already left us.
So, my message to young people in 2023 is: network, ask questions, use the resources of relationships, particularly with people of experience.
You may be well educated and knowledgeable, quick, and lithe. So was I, at your age.
I do not regret having reached this age. In fact, I am so grateful.
I’d also like to encourage young people to reach out to assist older people, particularly relating to aspects of digital and social change.
I personally find the rapid developments in social media and technology quite challenging. I guess I am not really surprised to be feeling a bit lonely, as many of my peers have opted out of the digital world.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in balance. I believe in free choice. I’d like to support the options to maintain connection, even digitally in old age, as well as respecting individual needs, capabilities and interests.
I’m feeling like a campaigner for aged rights. No, I am not an activist, or negative demonstrator. I would just like you young guys sometimes to understand, listen and just sometimes, have a little compassion, for us Baby Boomers who have survived this long. Afterall, if we are still here, we are also the survivors. That is a skill well worth learning.