If our parents were The Greatest Generation, maybe we’re The Luckiest. We surely are if we believe the words that frequent contributor Morgan Petrini read. They were written by a baby boomer at the edge of death, but who was grateful for the gift of life.
Our generation has lived through some very exciting times; of that there can be no doubt. Personally, I feel extraordinarily fortunate that I was born a boomer. I think a lot of us probably feel that way. Like the late Peter Barton. He was a baby boomer, adventurer, happily-married husband, father of three young children, and highly successful entrepreneur; Barton co-founded Liberty Media, pioneered the Discovery Channel, Fox Sports, The Learning Channel, Black Entertainment Television, and STARZ. Before he died just a few years ago, Barton wrote down some of his reflections about being a boomer … and he wrote them during a period when many of us might not be feeling quite so fortunate if we were in his situation: after he was diagnosed with the cancer that would soon end his life. I have never read a more fitting, truthful, heartfelt tribute to our generation than Peter Barton’s words:
“I’ve been lucky, and that luck began on the day I was born – because that day was right in the heart of the baby boom. Let me say this straight out, because it’s the big context in which my own life has been just a tiny part: Our generation is the luckiest that ever lived. Way luckier than we did anything to deserve.
“We were born into a time of prosperity and peace. The world seemed safe and was ours to explore. No one talked about limits and boundaries. No one ever used the word impossible. We were encouraged to pursue our dreams, in a world that only got better.
“We had amazing music, and free love that wouldn’t kill you. During the biggest crisis of our adolescence – Vietnam – we linked arms and helped stop an ugly and immoral war. We brought the races closer together, and gay people out of the closet. We had the blessing of living more openly and honestly than any generation that had gone before.
“Perhaps the luckiest part of all was that we were the generation that wasn’t rushed and bullied into becoming grown-ups too soon. We could take time – in the parlance of the day – to find ourselves. That phrase, I realize, has become one of ridicule, a way of deriding the navel-gazing of the Sixties and Seventies. But maybe it’s time to reexamine that. What’s unworthy about working to understand who you truly are and what you really want from life? What better use can a person make of his youth? People of our generation seemed to agree that it was more important to live fully than to live in a straight line. Younger people today seem more passive, less hopeful than we were. That’s a waste.
“Unlike our parents’ generation, we weren’t pressured into marrying in our early twenties and starting families right away. Unlike the young people who’ve come along in less confident economic times, we didn’t feel a desperate need to hurl ourselves too quickly into the hamster cage of commerce. We had the great luxury of picking our moments. We could take our time growing up.
“By the time I got my MBA, I was thirty-one years old. I was closing in on thirty-five [when I] finally found the love of my life. At length, I proposed marriage – in a hot air balloon, thousands of feet above the highest of the Rocky Mountains…. a person’s prime, I guess, is an approximate notion; it doesn’t start at one particular moment. But if I were to pick a point at which my life reached its richest, and most fulfilled, and most complete stage, I know exactly what it would be: the moment I became a father. I have savored a life full of love and fun and one of the deepest satisfactions that people can have – the making of great kids. I sometimes think there must be an afterlife, if for no other reason than so my gratitude for these gifts can continue. Of all the things I can’t imagine just suddenly stopping, is my thankfulness and wonder for the life I’ve had. The life that is ending prematurely from cancer.”
I wholeheartedly agree. Peter Barton was a lucky man. And very lucky to have been born in our generation and lived in these times that allowed him to enjoy so very much living within a rather short life. Peter died in 2002 from cancer, something that could afflict anyone at any age. For the rest of us, my advice is to keep on keepin’ on, treasure each moment for the wondrous gift that it is, and embrace each day with the excitement and vigor befitting our exceedingly adventuresome … and lucky … generation.
More of Peter Barton’s inspirational, uplifting musings and anecdotes can be found in a book he wrote before his passing, which I recommend to all baby boomers and even those who are not. The title tells the story: Not Fade Away : A Short Life Well Lived. Co-written with novelist Laurence Shames, it can be found at Amazon.com.