It was first written in the 17th Century that the only constant in life is change. But there wasn’t really much change from generation to generation back then. Today though, it never stops. And that applies to boomers more than anyone else. Which is why we like this essay by boomer writer Marcia Barhydt about Reinvention, Boomer-Style.
Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to be able to reinvent myself when I had to. After my marriage ended; when my kids went off to university; when I lived on my own for the first time in my life; when I retired from a 32-year career; when I started dating again at 62.
Thank goodness I was able to do it with ease because reinvention is something all of us face many times in our lives, never more than now that we’re in our 50s and 60s.
It used to be that a person retired from a decades-long career with the same company, accepted the silver watch, and spent the rest of her time in the rocking chair. Waiting.
Now, we boomers are reinventing the face of retirement, just as we’ve reinvented the face of so many other traditions during our lives. We reinvented our sex lives with the birth control pill; we reinvented our work lives by moving from one career to another; we reinvented our pre-set concepts of minority groups and sloughed off our ill-placed prejudices; we embraced ‘free love,’ hippiedom, and flower power; some of us burned our bras and some burned our three-piece power suits. We soared to the moon with Neil Armstrong; we descended to the depths of despair after JFK’s and Martin Luther King’s assassinations. And we kept changing, reinventing ourselves and our lives and our worlds after each event.
So now here we all are, newly retired, or close to it, looking at the next stage and realizing that yet another reinvention is at hand. No rocking chair for us, no-sirree. We’re going to move on, start new, search for the next phase, the next chapter in our lives. And, just like Slim Pickens riding the A-Bomb in Dr. Strangelove, we’re whooping with joy for the whole ride!
We’re starting out on a whole new journey, trying something new, putting a new spin on something old, maybe even finding our dream.
We need to make some decisions about how we’ll choose to reinvent ourselves physically, too. One of our most challenging issues is accepting the changes to our bodies. It’s essential that we’re happy with our bodies and minds for this reinvention.
Many men have concerns about their physical appearance as they age, but we women have a much heavier burden because of our “young is beautiful” culture. We all need to accept, even embrace, the changes that are happening to our bodies.
Women have a hair color issue. And a facial skin/wrinkles issue. And certainly a body issue. We make choices about accepting ourselves and it’s a very personal choice with the correct answer being this: the answer that’s correct for each of us personally.
Do we color our hair or let the grey grow in? Do we accept the new lines in our faces or diminish them with lotions/injections/surgery? Do we allow increasingly saggy muscles or attack our bodies at a gym?
I now have the ability to reinvent what really counts in the way I look. Color does not make a bad hair day. Frame of mind does. Acceptance of physical change IS my reinvention of myself; acceptance of aging is my reinvention of the soul. I’m pretty sure about who I am no matter how I change physically.
I think that all of us have an incredible ability to experience life, to embrace it or reject it, to take the best for ourselves from it, to pass on our wisdom to our family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers, to allow our experiences to shade us and to influence our choices and to color who we’re becoming because of these experiences.
I’m reinventing my own wheel. Join me.
© Marcia Barhydt, 2011