All right, it’s time for a reality check. Unless I live to be 110, I’m technically past my midlife shelf life—so far over the rainbow as to be nearly under it. (But what was I going to call this blog, anyway? The Over-the-Hill Second Wife? The Old Second Wife? To Infinity and Beyond with the Midlife Second Wife? These are hardly euphonious, and the first two less than complimentary.) I was reminded—painfully—of the disparity between my chronological age (55) and a more accurate midpoint (say, 40 or so), this morning while catching up on my local newspaper reading. The Richmond Times-Dispatch runs a monthly column, “Viva the Vital!” by a boomer named Matt Thornhill; he’s president of the Boomer Project, based here in my adopted hometown. The Boomer Project provides advice and information about our robust demographic to organizations and corporations. For example, did you know that we Boomers and our elders spend $3.5 trillion dollars annually on goods and services? But back to Thornhill and his Thanksgiving Day column. He started things off with a quote by comedienne Rosanne Barr, who said: “C’mon, I ain’t living to age 106, so I am waaay past the halfway point.”
Ouch. Thanks, Rosanne. Thanks, Matt. No, really—thanks. Because this got me thinking—always a good exercise when writing a blog.
Many of us in our 50s and 60s don’t feel old. Do we? And if we’re careful and follow all of the good advice out there, Thornhill reminds us that thanks to the miracle of modern medicine and technologies, the new normal is such that we could very well live—and live well—into our 80s and beyond. And if such is the case, we’ve got a good 20 to 30 years to fill.
It’s nice to have the extra time. But what are we going to do with it?
Thornhill writes that he and his colleagues at the Boomer Project “believe that boomers are going to fulfill their ‘promise’ as a generation by individually living out their own personal promise or agenda.” You might recall that ours is the generation that intended to change the status quo in the 1960s. Thornhill quotes Tom Brokaw, who famously chronicled our generational predecessors in The Greatest Generation. Apparently Brokaw thinks that we baby boomers squandered our opportunity to make a lasting, positive difference in the world.
I’m happy to read that Thornhill disagrees with Brokaw’s assessment. And here’s where we can take up the challenge. If you believe, as Thornhill does, that we still have the opportunity, in the next 20 years, to apply “our collective wisdom and experience from our ever-increasing trips around the sun, [then] our legacy as a generation is in front of us.” We can effect positive change on “companies, organizations, governments, each other and other generations,” as long as we “live our promise.” And Thornhill believes that it is our personal promises, as boomers, that will make the difference; he predicts that most of them will be outwardly focused.
What is your promise—to yourself, your family, your community? I’ve already made one or two—and I should mention that these are nothing like New Year’s resolutions. When the opportunity is appropriate, I’ll share my promise on the blog. But I would love to know what the boomers among you think:
Did we, as a generation, blow our chance to leave a lasting and positive legacy? Or is the best, as Frank Sinatra sang, yet to come?