It's back to school time, kids!
Of course, we never actually left. The School of Life doesn’t have study halls, or locker combinations or even a Junior Prom. Mostly it offers endless assignments that we pass, or we fail. And the thing is, no matter how we do, the lessons just keep coming.
Along the way, if we’re lucky, we encounter teachers who can help, who make us think -- like all all great teachers do. Here’s one.
Meet Shirley Curry. She’s 84 and lives in southwestern Ohio. After working as a secretary and in a candy factory and several years as an associate in a Kmart women’s clothing department, she retired in 1991.
She enjoys quilting.
Shirley also has four sons. And 916,000 grandkids.
Well, that’s not entirely true. By the time you read this she’ll have more than 916,000 grandkids. Such is the life of a YouTube gaming celebrity.
“When people say things like, ‘You’re a legend!’ it embarrasses me. Because I’m just a newbie old grandma,” Shirley said in a recent New York Times interview.
With all due respect, Shirley, but when The New York Times is writing about you because nearly a million people follow your charming adventures in The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, a role-playing video game, and the Guinness Book of World Records has certified you as the oldest gamer on YouTube, well, you ARE legendary.
Each morning, Shirley starts her day with a cup of coffee in front of her computer, turns on her camera and greets her “grandkids” – which is what she calls her YouTube channel subscribers – before taking them on an open-world gaming adventure filled with quests and battles and meanderings with everyone’s favorite grandmother. At the end of each video, she sends her viewers off with “Bye-bye grandkids.”
Shirley started playing video games in 1996 when her son introduced her to the classic strategy game Civilization II. She was hooked. She started her YouTube channel in 2011.
There were no plans of building an audience or uploading videos of her play. She simply wanted to watch others and leave words of encouragement. Out of this kindness grew encouragement from others, suggesting she record her own games and upload them to YouTube.
Putting yourself out there can be a scary proposition, especially for a senior gamer in a world dominated by youth. It was all new and sometimes confusing. Shirley admits there were times she didn’t know what she was doing. But eventually, she summoned the courage and uploaded her first game stream on September 18, 2015.
She didn’t think it would go anywhere. She was wrong.
Word spread on the Internet of Shirley’s wit and gentle demeanor. Viewers flocked to her channel. Her sweetness – a characteristic sorely lacking in the gaming community – was infectious and her subscriber base exploded.
Oh, some young players would make snarky comments about her age, telling her she didn’t belong. She squashed those early trolls with patience and kindness, the most powerful weapons in her arsenal. Age, she explained, shouldn’t matter. She just wants to play. Her followers rallied to her defense.
No one now dares mess with The Gaming Grandma.
Yes, the School of Life is tough. There are quests and chaos and confusion. And sometimes there are teachers showing us when we learn to conquer fear, amazing things can happen.