I had an interesting conversation with a friend last week. One of the things we touched upon was the idea of retirement; at what point one is too old to embark upon new projects, and when one should start considering going out to pasture, as it were. She and I have reason to ponder these things…we are both fifty-something, and we have each embarked upon Great Undertakings at this stage in our lives. And yet, we encounter so many of our contemporaries who are happily turning in their keys, collecting their gold watches and dropping out of the action. My friend even mentioned reading a retiring columnist’s assertion that she felt obligated to retire; that it was time for The Boomers to step aside and hand the baton to the next generation.
Say what? I AM a Boomer. I will declare my membership in that gigantic, lumbering horde confidently and proudly to whoever is within earshot. We are STILL the largest voting block in the nation. I’m not half ready to loosen the stranglehold I have on the political and social issues for which my generation fought long and hard. Though once we might have thought our work complete, the Bush Administration so capably reminded us that we must never relax our vigilance, must never think a thing—especially a good thing—accomplished for good and all.
Retirement? I don’t think so. I don’t intend to go gently into that good night any time soon.
I’m proud to be a Boomer, and I intend for the world—especially the younger generations reaching out to wrestle the baton out of my hand—to hear me “boom” for quite a few more years.
My conversation with my friend got me to thinking about a piece I had posted a few years back. I knew I had written something very specific about the lot of the Baby Boomer in the 21st Century…but I couldn’t quite remember what it was. I dove back into The Archives to find it.
Here it is…and though it isn’t quite the tribute to the great state of Boomerness that I thought it was, it is as true today as it was when I wrote it three years ago…
I am the silent majority.
I am the endangered middle class.
I am the fifty-something American citizen, bound to conform to the realities of the out-sourced twenty-first century workplace—minimum compensation in exchange for minimum commitment—for at least another decade. Or maybe forever.
I no longer dream of retirement, because I will neither be able to count on the government program into which I paid all my working years to sustain me; nor will I be able to depend upon the pension in which I invested a lifetime of drudgery, so that I could still enjoy my golden years in the not unforeseen event that Social Security would collapse before I drew my first dime.
I will need to work until I drop dead, which I will most likely conveniently do ten or twenty years before my time, since I can afford neither the medical care nor the drugs to keep me healthy.
I am a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent. I am a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, an agnostic. I am white, black, hispanic, asian, Native American. Neither religion nor politics can exempt me from this colossal crowd shuffling off to a dark, ailing, impoverished demise.
I am a former beaded, bell-bottomed Viet Nam War protestor, who foresook activism somewhere between high school and life, and is only now shaking out of my ears the debris from those thirty intervening years of keeping my political head firmly planted in the sand.
I am a Baby Boomer. And the only salvation I can count on in all the world is…