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It’s been a heck of a year for this particular middle-aged baby boomer. I awake each morning and feel confused. What have I been? What am I now? What should I be now? What do I want to be after today? Why do politicians look so young ? …well, compared to me.
Sometimes I want to be 5 years old again. So much, that it physically hurts.
Then I remember that I hated every day of school. I seem to have been worrying about what I should be just about every day of my life – and yet looking back again, realizing that it really didn’t matter.
So now I’m 61 years old. Fairly successful by most reasonable standards. But that’s not what it’s about – is it?
We ‘boomers’ really are the butt of most jokes – check out these wisecracks:
"These days, I’m build for comfort not speed"
"I’m now upside down – my nose runs and my feet smell"
Younger ladies. "My mind is writing checks that my body can’t cash"
"I even ache in places that I didn’t have when I was younger"
"I still get excited – but I can’t remember why"
"That’s not a beer-belly – that’s a fuel tank for a sex machine" (yeah, I wish!!)
And why the heck am I losing hair off my arms and legs, yet growing a forest out of my nose and ears. If we are creatures of evolution – then what’s all that about?!!
Okay let’s get serious. I was inspired to write this after reading a beautifully written article by Peter Aspden in the Financial Times today (don’t get impressed – I’m holed up in a hotel and the FT came free with breakfast). It struck a chord though.
The Who Rock Band came to mind (are we boomers allowed to like that stuff – my dad did wood carvings in old age….)
Young Man Blues – "it’s the Old Man who has all the money"
My Generation – "….hope I die before I get old…"
Stuff you Mr Townsend – my definition of a middle-aged baby boomer is that I wanna live a little. Anyway, the article went on to explain that we baby boomers can’t do a thing right. The world likes to laugh at us. If we fall in love – it’s absurd. If we buy a sports car – it’s really a penis extension. Wearing jeans shows you’re childish. The list is endless.
Apparently, middle-aged men run the world. And the more powerful you are – the more amusing your plight when you suffer a set back. The article quotes Bill Clinton and Monica….
My Dad passed away last year. Since then, I have often quietly sat and considered his life. And for his many positive ways, I realised that he NEVER admitted being wrong. He would turn around any criticism with uncanny skill – time and again. On reflection, he must have had some terrible demon going back to some childhood event. I think fear of failure does continue in each generation. But I’m getting off track.
The FT article closed so many loops for me. My Fathers generation fought in a terrible war – I have never served. They grew old wearing suits and acted very conservative as it seemed to me.
I was doomed to become like my Grandfather, or so I thought. Staying indoors for the most part, falling asleep in front of the TV, reading the newspaper – and believing everything in it. Drinking countless hot beverages. And taking a quick walk everyday to the local shop for some mints. That was it. Life in retirement as he knew it.
We cannot rely on the way our fathers acted their age, for we are fundamentally different from them. A quote from the FT:
"Today, a 64 year-old rock star still sings that he cannot find any girlie action and we wryly appreciate the irony, not because he is no longer capable of it but because he arguably suffers from a surfeit of it."
So that’s it then. I’m no different to you if you’re a baby boomer, and it’s okay for me to live and feel different to how I thought 60+ should be.
So what is the characteristics of a middle aged baby boomer? I would say that a fundamental trait is that we dare to be different. The last generation – probably due to the two world wars, were trained to conform.
So It’s okay that I’m now self employed. Okay that I live in another country half-way up a mountain. Work for me is many cities and hotels on an as-needed basis. I don’t read newspapers (unless they’re free), I don’t watch the news channels, I don’t vote, I hate politicians and their parties, I stay away from organized religion.
I teach project management. I write books. I do stuff I want. And I pay my own way in society.
And my birthday present to myself? A $3000 guitar. My grandad would have asked for slippers. Self-centered you say? Yeah, so I’m feeding my Ego, enjoy the challenge of learning new songs and licks. I feel young again and vibrant – even though I know I’m not.
Yet I’m not a hermit. I love socialising. And I love my quiet times. I sit on my own sometimes, but I am not lonely. I get drunk sometimes. I laugh a lot. I get mysteriously angry and don’t know why. But it soon passes. I look at others who are rich and famous, and I get jealous (If only I’d……). But then I remember I see the sun set each evening and the stars, and a valley view, and….
I have a loving wife. She is my third wife. I’m not proud of that, but it must be a trend of the way we live today, and the different standards we expect as humans on this planet. Not better. Not Worse. Just Different.
And You? Probably totally different to my list above. Feel comfortable with that. Only conform if you really, really, wanna.
It is impossible to Grow Old Disgracefully. Why? because you’d have to define disraceful to whose standards? I skinny-dip in my pool and take Jack Daniels with my morning coffee (when not working). I’m fat and ugly – compared to Brad Pitt. I wear jeans and funky T shirts. I play loud country rock at 2 in the morning (no-one lives next door). And these are only my conservative traits!
Going back to the start of this article. When I arise from bed each day, my head is buzzing. I certainly do a lot more of self-talk these days. Yes I get a little confused, and need some quiet time to sit down and collect my thoughts. But I am more excited when I get up these days, than at any other time in my life.
I am able to draw upon a wealth of living experience, knowledge, and learnt skills.
I see the world in sharper focus. I see it for what it really is. I can steer a shrewder path through the hype and control the need of others to exert their power over me.
But best of all I am more optimistic. I know what I don’t know, and this blog is a proclamation of my new future. One that will enable me to lead a fulfilled life into my seventies and beyond.
My fate, like all of us, is to eventually turn back into stardust, but until then, I’ll enjoy each waking day – even though my feet ache, my back hurts, and my chest now occupies my upper waste-line!
Check out Peters’ full article – I dare you to read it without a smile: