by Jake Doolittle
I’ve experienced age discrimination since I was 16 years old. I know that seems somewhat ridiculous, but it’s true. My first college class at SMCC was in 2017 when I was 16 years old. I took an intro to video production class and I absolutely loved it. The only issue was, I was the youngest person in my class. By a lot.
I remember the first time I got asked my age and people in the class were shocked. At first that was a good thing! People complimented my ability to shoot and edit video well, my photographs in my portfolio, and my writing assignments. But later in that semester I started getting cut off in the middle of sentences, getting eyes rolled at me when trying to speak, having ideas for projects shut down immediately, and many more microaggressions like that. I get that it’s annoying to have someone in your class the age of your younger sibling, or for some, the age of their child. But I was trying to educate myself just like everyone else so they should have at least given me a chance.
Later in my life I started trying to make a name for myself in the photography industry, but yet again it was very difficult to break the age wall. It all started by sending emails and researching potential clients, but once it came down to an interview process I would always get turned away because I was “too young.” There is a stigma attached to age where people believe that age equals maturity or skill. I think that is nowhere near the truth. I’ve had adults in my SMCC classes behave like children and be twenty-two years old.
One of the only times that I’ve been able to turn a negative into a positive age wise is when I applied for an internship at Saturday Night Live. During the application process, everything was against me. When I say everything, I mean literally everything. My application to SNL was equivalent to handing a toddler a basketball and asking them to sink a full-court shot. The requirements were as follows: must be attending school in New York City, must have reliable transportation, and must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree. I went to school in Maine, never took the subway before, and was one year into an associate degree program. All the other applicants were twenty and twenty-one. I was eighteen years old. I continued to email them and check in on my application. I used some killer references and sure enough they said yes. For my duration at SNL I took the bus from Portland to NYC every week. I stayed in a hotel and paid $100 a night for the opportunity. I lost around $1000 during my duration at thirty Rockefeller plaza, but it was completely worth it. I used my perseverance to outweigh the stigma behind my age and finally it worked!
I think that the positive part of dealing with my kind of age discrimination is the final result. I’m lucky because age discrimination doesn’t last forever, where most other descrimination lasts for a lifetime.