Age, Just a Number?

You hear the phrase “age is just number” a lot in conjunction with relationships. What about the rest of life, though? Is age just a number?

As you may know, I’m 29 and an attorney by day. I’ve been licensed to practice law for almost four years now, although I started my third year of law school, so that’s five years experience, plus a couple years clerking in law school, so all told, I’ve got a close to seven years of experience in the legal field under my belt. I’m not saying this to brag or anything, just to point out that after seven or so years, I know what I’m doing.  Especially when it comes to writing.

I may have only been writing novels for three years, but most of my clerking experience and, work as an associate in a law firm, was writing briefs. That’s thirty some odd pages of legal theories and case law per brief (thirty is the typical court limit, some courts make you condense to fifteen). For the last year and a half I’ve been drafting and reviewing contract documents. So, I know my way around a sentence. In fact, I dare say, I’m pretty freaking good at what I do and the people I work for generally trust my opinions and my work.

Until they see me. I do most of my work via email, so I don’t see the people I work for that often. I admit I look younger than I am. Regardless, as soon as they see what I look like, they start doubting me. Second guessing my work. Questioning my opinions. Talking down to me. At the law firm, new clients thought I was the secretary. I don’t know if it’s my age, or the fact I’m female, or both. Whatever the reason, it’s incredibly frustrating.

So I started wondering if this happens in other fields as well. Do I trust younger doctors as much as older ones? When an agent gets a manuscript from a teenager, do they automatically question the writing or the plot? Would you take financial advice from an accountant who looked like they just graduated high school?

My answer is, “I don’t know.” I want to say no. That I would judge someone based on the quality of their work, not their age. But then again, if my doctor looked like he couldn’t legally drink yet, would I trust his opinion? I’m not sure.

What I am sure of, though, is if someone had consistently provided me with quality work, and then I found out they were rather young, I would be amazed of their talent, not distrustful. If I were an agent who just read a phenomenal manuscript, and then discovered the author was fifteen, I would be in awe. If I consistently got good advice from a doctor or accountant over the phone and then met them, I would still trust them.  If my attorney sent me stellar contract language, I wouldn’t change my opinion just because they were younger than I thought.

For me, it’s not a question so much of age, but of experience and talent. That forty year old attorney may have chosen law as a second career. They may only have a year of experience. They may have scraped through by the skin of their teeth.  Or, just because a writer is fifty doesn’t mean their work is good. It just means they’ve lived longer.  There are several writers I’ve seen around the community who are still in high school, and I am consistently amazed at the quality of their writing.

What about you, dear reader? Do you judge by someone age? Do you wait for a younger person to prove themselves before you trust them? Or do you think age is just a number?

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3 thoughts on “Age, Just a Number?

  1. I try to judge everyone based on merit. Looks, age, religion, race, etc., don’t matter so much as what each person does. It comes from growing up in a diverse neighborhood and going to a more diverse school.

    I look young for my age too. I went into the military late. I was twenty-five. All of my superiors were blown away with my work ethic and maturity. They couldn’t believe I was seven years older than most other new recruits. I simply did the best I could at everything I did. I still do. Age is a number, but it’s the experience that counts. You never know what a person has been through until you get to know them. Young or old, it doesn’t matter. I’d want the best person for the job.

  2. I think this is exactly why in publishing people always tell you not to put down your age when querying – that way your work gets judged by its quality and not some outside factors! I just interviewed the talented Jessica Khoury for example and she is just 22 and her debut novel is coming out this year = amazing!

  3. Thanks for your comments! I agree that merit should be the deciding factor. It’s one bonus I can see of the internet. You get a certain measure of anonymity which allows you to be judged by what you produce, not how old you are.

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