Tuesday, July 22, 2008

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Seventh Inning Stretch

It's happened: the first of the 60s generation Baby Boomers are applying for Social Security. Those of us born in 1946, officially the first year of the Boom, turn 62 this year. I did, a couple of weeks ago. (Turned 62, that is. I'm waiting for the big s.s. bucks later on.)

Apart from personal reflections on my birth and that year, I feel an urgency that given my status in life is faintly embarrassing. Although nobody else seems to care one way or another whether I accomplish anything more, or leave anything behind, it matters a great deal to me.

I want to make something of my past, so that it survives for those who may not be all that interested at the moment, and may never be interested, but at least they'll have the evidence, the opportunity.

But also, I want to contribute to the future.

Since no one is expecting anything from me really--any more writing, other than press releases and reviews of other peoples' creations, or anything in any other form I've worked in over the years--it seems quixotic, if not pathetic.

But apparently I'm not alone. Here are a few quotes I've lifted from a recent web column by Patricia Zohn. She writes mostly about women she knows (these are my emphases and edits):

The Boomer women are the most ambitious of my acquaintance. They are working harder than anyone else, desperate, it seems, to claim a place for themselves, aspirational to an unimaginable degree, as if they had spent so much time serving (children, husbands, politics, being the best, ideals of one sort or another) that a new kind of ticking clock has emerged, one about leaving your mark on the world and not just your genetic material in the form of offspring. I see publishing executives, agents, film programmers, producers, writers, consultants, media baronesses, internet queens, and that's just on my turf. Last week in Aspen I met women who are on the ground in Afghanistan saving children, in Africa fighting Aids and in Washington fighting with Congress for dollar..."

Zohn writes that Boomers on the Internet is a natural fit. "We probably have embraced the internet because we have been conditioned to give it all away for free, anyway. (Who knows how much impact Free Love and Free Speech and Free the Panthers ultimately has really had?) We are inclusive, not exclusive."

She concludes: "And by the way, it's not just women: a good friend, male, who used to run publishing companies and is now a best-selling author says it's because we are all finally having our moment. "

Now I've got a lot of caveats about Zohn's point of view, and her social milieu is miles from mine. There is an undeniably personal quality to this urgency, but it can't be dismissed as simply egotistical anxiety. There is something about meaning in all this, as well as about making a big noise before the big sleep.

I saw Lewis Black (comic and author, best known perhaps for appearances on the Daily Show) on some TV program about self-centered Boomers, and while he admitted that the Boomer generation accomplished a lot less than we hoped or thought we would in the 60s, that we still have some time to pull it together. He said it's the seventh inning stretch, and we can still win it in the late innings--but it's going to take concentrated effort.

That's how I feel about it, even as the time goes winging by without my urgency being reflected in my day, and certainly not in the eyes of others. But the urge is there, and this is the defining task.

I'm especially conscious of how quickly my current level of strength can turn into real old age by a serious illness or injury--not to mention the impossibility of paying for it. Still, I suppose I'm fortunate in one respect. It doesn't take much in the way of resources--like money or the belief of others--to write things down. To tell a story or two.