Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Boom On, Brothers and Sisters

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…

ME.

6 comments:

Anne said...

Interesting post Lisa. I am also a boomer. I have worked long hours and I've done my time. My husband is still working. After putting in 12 years after high school, my husband in still working. He is lucky, he can retire anytime....but chooses to continue. WE have always paid our debt off first. We have always been conservative in our extra money. We have been together for 40 years. We have counted of US for all of our years. When the "experts" told us to invest instead of pay off our house, we went agains the grain. We always have. Retirement is doing what we went to do and never had the chance to do. Anne

lisaram said...

You have made some wise choices, Anne, and I salute you. Of course, I was using "I" as a generalization...

Having been in the Food Service business most of my life, I have no "retirement plan." Well, I have a plan, but it doesn't involve stock market investments or a pension plan. My "retirement" is a cute little cafe 1.1 miles from my home. And one does not maximize its value by sitting on one's ass and watching it grow...

JACKIE said...

To paraphrase a certain NRA president: they'll have to pry that baton out of my cold dead hands. I'm not going anywhere; peacefully or otherwise.

Debbi said...

Hear, hear. Well said as always. I just renewed my teaching certificate for the 6th time; it's now good for six more years. When I renewed back in '03, I thought that if am still in a middle school classroom in '09, just shoot me. But here I am on the last day of school today actually looking forward to August 1st. However, I am also wishing mightily that I would instead be able to get up on that morning and simply fill the bird bath, maybe bake a pie, and read. Oh well. It was the cost of college for two kids that really derailed our savings, but the nest is now empty and we can start feathering it. I don't plan to be renewing again in 2015! *debbi*

sunflowerkat321 said...

Can you imagine if the boomers had held onto their sense of responsible activism with the same tenacity as we hold on to fending off the outward appearance of aging? It was a generation that knew no bounds. And then, we all turned 30.

Having to live "real life" sucked the fire out of the majority of us. Many of us were just plain stupid, and are swallowed in debt because we couldn't prioritize. Others tried to "do it right" and spent these years preparing to educate our kids and sustain ourselves in retirement. Either way, our focus became our own little world. And what do we have to show for it? Wouldn't it be something if, as we reached retirement age, we channeled our energy back into the greater good?

Kathy said...

Lisa, I felt that writing then and I feel it the same way today. We will not retire either. Could we? Maybe ... but it isn't likely after the hit our retirement account took over the last year ... and there's darned little business to keep the business going just now.

I don't mind working, but I'd like to actually leave the state now and again for a vacation.