Ha! Boomers are supposed to be reinvention experts. Why? Because instead of riding off into the golden years sunset, we continue to work, start new business ventures or change careers. Somehow that makes us experts?
Not buying it. Just like millennials who are struggling to deal with the cards they’ve been dealt, baby boomers too are adjusting to the reality of their situation. If the company you work for wants you to retire but you still need the income, you become a teacher. Or start that business you always dreamed of owning. Or drive a school bus. Or become a big box store greeter.
Boomers are not so much reinventing themselves as they are recalibrating their expectations of what the aging experience is going to be for them. The percentage of people 55 and older in the workforce back in 1993 was 29%. Fast forward to 2013 and that number has jumped to more than 40%. Sure, the big wave of the oldest boomers has a lot to do with that increase, but changing attitudes towards retirement may be an even bigger factor.
The whole gold watch send-off seems so anachronistic now, and it might have something to do with the changing attitudes toward work itself. The parents of baby boomers may have felt like they were marking time until the day that they could quit and hit the shuffleboard courts. Work wasn’t their passion as much as it was a means to an end. I’m generalizing (as always), but most boomers enjoyed their careers and liked the idea that they were really good at it or that they made a valuable contribution. You don’t just shut that off one day and hang up your toolbelt.
I like to think that what boomers are going to do in the years ahead is redefine rather reinvent. And that makes sense when you think about it, because baby boomers have been redefining things since the day we came into the world. Education, music, art, communication, politics, you name it --- there is no field or endeavor that has not felt the effect of the baby boomer revolution. We were – we are – products of our time. The prosperous years after WWII afforded us the opportunity to make a unique mark on society, so it should be no surprise that we continue to exhibit that behavior. Just don’t make us out to be reinvention experts. We’re just reacting to the times the same way we always have.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.
Once upon a time, an old man lived in the forest. He was all alone and had been for many years. He did not mind being alone. He loved the tall trees, their branches swaying with the breeze, the birds nestled in those branches and the bright sky behind them. He would sit outside his little house and stare at them for hours.
One day he was sitting there when one of the trees said to another, “do you think the old man can read our thoughts?”
“Perhaps,” was the reply.
Then only silence. The old man glanced around, he was troubled by something he had sensed but could not clearly understand. He went on watching the trees and they went on watching him.
Years went by and the old man grew tired. He no longer had the strength to fix the leaks in his house or even to gather sufficient amounts of food to feed himself. Every day he set looking at the treetops as if the sight of them provided his nourishment. The trees grew anxious. They knew that they could stand close to the old man for many years, drawing up the food they needed through their roots. He could not.
They discussed the situation. “What can we do?” they asked. If they had been fruit trees, they could swing their branches and drop apples, pears and peaches at his feet. But they were fir trees and the old man could not eat their seeds.
Months went by the old man grew weaker and would often lay on the ground rather than sit on his chair. His eyes would slide shut and although he still saw the sky in his mind, he would fall sound asleep. The trees leaned toward each other and sheltered him with their thick branches.
One day he did not get up to go to sleep in his little house but stayed on the bare ground under the stars. His eyes opened in the middle of the night and he was delighted to see the bright twinkling stars hung in the branches of his beloved trees. He closed his eyes again and slept.
The trees knew that he was close to dying. They murmured among themselves and some of them wept. The old man stirred in his sleep. The ground was hard and his old bones were brittle. The trees crept closer, lowering their branches to keep him warm. The old man slept on.
His sleep was deep and he had extraordinary dreams — scenes of wonder passed before his eyes. He visited faraway places where the vegetation grew thick and lush, he flew through the air and fell in love. He slept peacefully for 3 days and 3 nights while the trees watched over him.
When he opened his eyes, the trees were surprised.
“This is a strange place to be,” he said. “I wonder why I didn't sleep in my bed.”
When he started to lift his feet to walk toward the house, he could not move. His feet somehow were attached to the ground. He struggled for a moment but there was nothing he could do. The trees were amazed.
The old man was perplexed but somehow not surprised. As he had woken up, he wondered why it was that he felt so refreshed. He knew that he had nothing to eat or drink for days, but he felt neither hungry or thirsty.
But what did surprise him with a small leaves growing out his feet. They were such a beautiful shade of pale green with scalloped edges. He bent down and ran his hand over them. It tickled. He laughed out loud. The trees laughed too. He had become one of them.
Pat Young is a former educator who now builds houses, makes puppets (the ones with gigantic heads), and can tell you all about where water comes from and where it goes. And she bakes the world's best biscotti.
Late September in L.A. has a tone. People are upset that you can’t see a Dodger game unless you get the Dodger channel or go to Chavez Ravine. As good as Vin Scully is, in his next to last season, his voice is lost to all but the ‘special people’ who can afford a game or the right cable. Or, there is radio. No one really expects the team to be in the World Series.
Everyone is cranky when the Santa Ana winds blow. It usually means the start of Wildfire Season. The daily news isn’t complete without a fire report. Reporters on the lines are usually breathy, excited and wearing full make-up and baseball caps. If there is any relationship between arsonists and fire fighters then it probably also exists between arsonists and adrenaline fueled reporters. When you smell smoke in the fall it’s usually not barbeque.
Late last week it all got predictably weird. Reports were full of shark and weather warnings. El Nino and La Nina are not uniquely L.A. but the city has adopted them like necessary, problem stepchildren. Those two Pacific Ocean currents have more to do with how we live in California than just about anything else. Everyone expects the news reports, accompanied by ominous photos from space showing various shades of doom lurking and undulating along the coastline. Add smoke to the mix and it becomes the apocalypse.
“Awards Season” another uniquely L.A. phenomenon, begins about now with announcements, nominations and hype. Soon there will be red-carpet events where stars will pose in beautiful clothing while fans scream. More than once the craziness has included fierce Santa Ana’s, blowing hot across the city. Catastrophic hairpiece incidents are prevented by “Stick-it-to-Me”, a hair spray glue product favored by a present GOP candidate and others.
Halloween stuff has been on grocery shelves since July and by now is “On Sale.” Well before October 31, Thanksgiving and Christmas goods need to be put out. In the middle of it all are Jewish New Year decorations, nearly always metallic blue. All the above can be had, mostly year ‘round, at the ubiquitous dollar stores. Turns out, the Beverly Hills (adjacent) 99-cent store is usually packed!
Driving here is always a perverse adventure. A hard rain in the middle of September is rare but most welcome in the parched region. Less welcome is seeing a dirty red and once-white fur Santa hat washing down the gutter toward the ocean, a reminder that there can be no real seasons in L.A.
Kim Kohler writes on the uncertainties of living in a liberal hot spot where everybody has an opinion, every opinion counts and nobody uses turn signals.
“If you spend all your time worrying about dying, living isn’t going to be much fun.”
from the television show Roseanne
“Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
Emily Dickinson, c.1863
The Final Words:
• “I’m going to the bathroom to read.”
• “I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis.”
• “That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.”
• “I love you too, honey. Good luck with your show.”
• “Surprise me.” (When asked where the burial place should be.)
• “Don’t you dare ask God to help me.” (When a nurse started to pray at the bedside)
• “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.”
• “This is no way to live!”
Groucho Marx / Desi Arnaz / Lou Costello / Bob Hope / Donald O’Connor / Elvis Presley / Joan Crawford / Humphrey Bogart
• “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” Elvis Presley
• “I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis.” Humphrey Bogart
• “I’m bored with it all.” Winston Churchill
• “That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.” Lou Costello
• “I love you too, honey. Good luck with your show.” Desi Arnaz
• “Surprise me.” Bob Hope
• “Don’t you dare ask God to help me.” Joan Crawford
• “I’d like to thank the Academy for my lifetime achievement award...” Donald O’Connor
• “This is no way to live!” Groucho Marx
Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.
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Joe Huckleberry is prowling around Seattle to capture the urban side of town.
You can see more of his photos on flickr.