For all the idiosyncrasies of boomer life, and it gets mighty complex, we’ve been a generation of work-a-holics. Time off? Forget it. Too much to do at the office. Most of us have spent our adult lives with our noses to the grindstone. Like our parents, we’ve been a hard-working generation of worker bees.
However, our parents knew when to quit at 5 p.m., come home, watch Walter Cronkite, and tune into Gunsmoke or Perry Mason. They also understood the value of the weekends and vacations—the priorities of downtime and chores around the house.
We never got that message let alone put it to practice.
Baby Boomers have been compulsive overachievers—mostly in the interest of amassing material goods along with our own self-worth. We like to pound our chests and show the world what we’ve accomplished. We’ve done that via McMansions, vacation homes, boats, and more vehicles than we even need. This has long been a measure of who we believe we are. Yet, how much quality time have we spent with our kids and grandkids?
Career has always been important to me. I fell into journalism purely by dumb luck and chance. Because I wanted to be aircraft mechanic with the airlines, I enlisted in the United States Air Force, Military Airlift Command (MAC) to both serve my country and get my FAA certification to work on commercial jetliners.
When I got out of the USAF, the house was full—with plenty of airline mechanics in house and no room for anyone fresh out of the military. To add insult to injury, there was the PATCO strike when President Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers, which effectively grounded the airlines for a time in 1981. I believed being an airline mechanic was my destiny. I’d spent four years in the Air Force preparing for it and pursued it with great tenacity.
The sound of crickets… It was not meant to be.
I found while working for a regional airline and later a poultry processing company, bending wrenches on jets and heavy trucks wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I didn’t like working in the heat and cold in all kinds of weather not to mention the challenges of staying awake on grave shift. In my spare time, I started writing for automotive magazines because I loved cars.
My future was about to change.
I knew I loved automobiles and found I loved writing. It became an obsession. One chilly January morning, I received a call from a Florida based car magazine I had been freelance writing for. They wanted to offer me a job. More shocking yet, they offered me the editor’s chair of their flagship magazine because I was Ford Motor Company historian and knew a lot about the subject.
What the heck did I know about being an editor let alone writing for a living? This newly founded publisher was the launch pad for a career spanning 40 years. The job lasted two years when I was fired for perceiving I knew more than my bosses. I had a lot to learn about publishing and getting along with people. Unless your name is on the building, you’re not always going to get your way and must find a way to get along or find yourself on the curb. Career pursuits took me across the continent to Los Angeles where I’ve been ever since.
If you’re like most boomers, change has long been an integral part of your career. Mergers, poor fit, difficult bosses, impossible working conditions, undesirable transfers, demotions, and a host of other variables have altered our career directions more than once.
We’ve been there. We’ve survived.
And now, it is time to hang up our spurs and get into a new groove called retirement. Because I am very passionate about writing and photojournalism, I will probably never retire because I love what I do. However, I’ve had to—for the good of my family and friends—slow down a bit and come out of my office to join humanity. Like most of you, I’ve no idea how to slow down and smell the roses because this is something I’ve never done. While I am parked on the sofa watching Andy Griffith or Dick Van Dyke, my mind is abuzz with things I should be doing. I’ve no idea how to relax. Call it conditioning…
Retirement communities were conceived and built for the leisure generations—our parents generation – and ours. Only that didn’t happen. Baby Boomers are working longer and aging in place due mostly to better healthcare and terrific medical advances. As a result, we’re burning more midnight oil than our parents did. Our parents also knew how to save. We’ve never been a generation of savers, which has forced a lot of us to continue working. If you have to continue working, work at something you love doing.
COVID 19 has created an abundance of jobs employers are having a tough time filling. Young people have become choosy about what they will and won’t do for a living. This means opportunity for aging boomers. We’re reliable. We show up on time. We work hard. This means job security because employers know they can count on us.
How to slow down and live more with all this time off? I don’t have an answer for you. However, we generally do what we want to do. If you love what you’re doing for a living, never give it up. Keep on keeping on and make no apologies. Working and purpose mean survival whether you’re earning a living, doing volunteer work, or taking care of the grandbabies. Main thing is to keep going.