Last week my grandmother turned 90 years old and danced at her party.Only in the past year has my grandmother said she is beginning to actually feel old.
Age is a number that represents us chronologically, but does it really represent who we are?
A political scientist would argue age is an excellent basis for making an educated guess about a person’s political view.
For example, people in their early 20s are more likely to be politically liberal than those in their 30s.
Marketing divisions target specific age groups as more likely to consume or have the financial capacity to consume specific goods.
It is not likely, for example, that a 50-year-old will purchase video games or that a 20-year-old will buy a home security system.
And yet, every day there are stories about people acting outside the stereotypical limits of their age.
Mozart, for instance, was 3 years old when he began composing music.
And my grandmother danced at her 90th birthday party.
So what is it that enables people to act in ways atypical of their ages?
In the case of my grandmother, I believe the adversity she faced in her youth forced her to find a strength in herself, which she has never lost.
Until she was a teenager, Eva Jessner, my grandmother, was a member of Germany’s privileged class, but, during Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime, things changed drastically.
By this time, the depression had hit everywhere, but, in Germany, the extreme poverty became a political tool for Hitler, who blamed the depression on Jews, Poles, Catholics and other groups that did not fit his twisted concept of Aryan supremacy.
Although the Jessners were a Jewish family, Eva had been raised a Christian Scientist by her grandmother, so you can imagine the emotional turmoil she faced when she was forced to return to Germany and wear the yellow star.
By the time she came to America, her grandmother had been picked up by the Nazis and would never be heard from again. Her mother, who had been perpetually ill as long as Eva had been alive, died after being kicked out of a hospital when a nurse found out she was a Jew.
Eva’s two sisters were both sent to concentration camps but fortunately would survive.
And so, with her family torn apart and with barely enough money to get by, Eva had to find the strength within to get herself out of Germany.
Teenagers are not supposed to be mature enough to take care of themselves, but if Eva had waited around for someone to tell her what to do, she may very well have ended up in one of the death camps.
So maybe we can guess a few things about people based on their age, but we can’t let age dictate who we are.
If we find the strength within to overcome adversity, then we too will have a reason to dance when no one expects us to.
Talia Sampson is a junior news-editorial journalism and international relations major from Moorpark, Calif.