Today I met my PAL, Georgie, and her husband Gil. I was excited, but so nervous about meeting my PAL. What if we didn’t have anything to talk about? What if we didn’t click? What were they going to be like? All of these questions were running through my head as I first stepped into the community room at the JCC. After a quick look around, I found my name tag, on the table, next to my PAL. The moment I saw her welcoming smile, I knew I had been worrying for no reason. Georgie is absolutely amazing; we were able to talk about several things that we are both interested in. Who would have thought that my PAL would love young adult novels as much as I do, or that she grew up just blocks from where I live now? I loved listening to her tell me about her family or what her and her husband do in their spare time, especially because I’m more of a listener and not much of a talker. And now I have several titles and authors to look up before I meet Georgie again in February!
In our conversation today, one thing that that stood out to me was when we were discussing the programs that different community centers such as the YMCA have; Georgie said “I don’t understand why they have all these programs for kids, but so little for adults”. It was such a simple statement about how she identified herself. She said “adult”, where as I probably would have said “older adult” or “senior” programs. And that’s exactly what she is: an adult, just as the rest of us are. From those six seconds I realized how much aging stereotypes and ageism affect us without even realizing it. I know it will take time for me to break down these barriers that society has placed in my mind against age, but in the meantime I will learn about the beauty of growing and all that life has to offer from such a genuine person as my PAL, Georgie.
Thinking back, it was unnecessary for me to have been worried about meeting my PAL.
Zaneera Hassan, third year graduate student in the VCU School of Pharmacy