A Brief History of the Boomer Generation

(Note: This essay was written in 2009 as a WordPress “page.” It’s become buried and hard to find, so I thought it time to republish it properly as a “post,” complete with categories and tags.)

MY PARENTS were born in 1920, which seems now to be in a different historical era. They were children in the Roaring ’20s, teenagers through the Great Depression, young adults at the beginning of World War II.

They are the Greatest Generation. They put off everything to fight the war. Then the boys came home — the ones who survived — and started making up for lost time. They attended college in greater numbers than ever before, under the GI Bill, married and bought brand new ticky-tacky houses with VA loans. And they had children. Did they ever.

The Greatest Generation shared hardship, service, accomplishment, victory. Then they settled down and didn’t look back much. As they had devoted themselves to country in the 1940s, they devoted themselves to work and family in the 1950s and 1960s. They created my generation.

We’re the Baby Boomer generation. We are NOT the greatest, not even close, as Garrison Keeler wryly observed.

THINGS LOST-- AMERICA WENT FROM FAMILY DINNER TO FAST FOOD IN ONE GENERATION.  --John Hayden photo

THINGS LOST– AMERICA WENT FROM FAMILY DINNER TO FAST FOOD IN ONE GENERATION. –John Hayden photo

We have shared history from the 1950s — polio shots and “duck and cover.”  The children of the 50s and 60s grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, with an awareness of unseen nuclear danger in the world, as well as a gradual awakening to inequality in America.

Though others see us as a monolithic cohort, the Boomer generation was divided in the 1960s and early 1970s by different, even opposite experiences. Many of us went to college, and many did not. We went to Vietnam, or we opposed the war (some did both).

The country cracked apart, during the 1960s, along social and economic lines. First the Civil Rights Movement, then the Vietnam War and the Peace Movement. The divide deepened and hardened in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Make love not war. Don’t trust anyone over 30.   Continue reading

What Boomers Can Look Forward To, As We Grow Into The Third Part of Life

THE AUTUMN OF LIFE MIGHT INVOLVE SOME LOSSES AND SOME LETTING GO. DO YA THINK?

 

The second half of life is different from the first half. What worked in the first half might not work in the second half. So I have been told, and so I believe.

That the second half of life is “different” is, of course, obvious. But what are the differences, what are the adjustments we will have to make? These are not idle questions, for mature people trying to cope in the complex and confusing world of the 21st Century.

I’ve been thinking for some time that this Consternation blog — Consternation from the perspective of a Baby Boomer over 60 — ought to take a stab at these questions.

LIFE CAN BE A FEAST AT ANY AGE, EVEN IF IT'S HOMEMADE SOUP WITH A GLASS OF WINE.

Let’s start by clarifying the questions that I hope to examine, with your help. First, it seems more useful to look at life in thirds, and to say that the third one-third of life is different from the first one-third and the second one-third. Exactly what are the differences?

What are the conditions of life at each of the three stages? What are the problems, the challenges, the work you need to accomplish? Retirement does not necessarily mean the end of work. Particularly important, what are the changes you have to make, and the changes you have to accept, in the third part of life? Let’s stipulate that we Baby Boomers are probably going to continue to learn and grow, even this late in the game. Especially this late in the game.

Let’s acknowledge that the third part of life is going to bring some losses, some goodbyes, some letting go.  We’ll have some sadness, I expect, but hopefully also some joy and accomplishments. I hope for connectedness, rather than isolation. I imagine that a sense of connectedness and belonging will be very important.

AT MY AGE, YOU CAN TAKE A NAP WHENEVER YOU WANT. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE GRAY HAIR. WAKE ME UP IN TIME FOR SUPPER.

The following video, which I stumbled upon at the Rowdy Kittens blog, might give us a common starting point, and some thoughts to ponder. It’s a talk by Brene Brown. She begins with the statement that, “Connection is why we’re here,” and goes on to issues of disconnection, shame, worthiness, belonging, and vulnerability.

The video is only 20 minutes long, and I hope you’ll give it a listen. Ms. Brown offers many insights on the human condition. She says that vulnerability is the core of shame, and vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy. I have no doubt that many Baby Boomers will have a sense of increasing vulnerability in the third part of life. Perhaps we will be able to embrace it as an opportunity.

Thanks to Rowdy Kittens and to the TED Web Site (“Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world”) for making Ms. Brown’s insights available to all.

I have no idea how many posts it’s going to take to examine the issues of the third part of life. I’m not prepared to venture any further in this post. Whether or not you listen to Ms. Brown’s talk, I hope you’ll consider offering some of your own thoughts in the comments area below. Your participation is welcome.

— John Hayden