Reinvention, Baby Boomer Style

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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.

Marcia Barhydt

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.

Actor Slim Pickens rides an A-bomb in the film, Dr. Strangelove.

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

9 Comments

  1. Marcia, I enjoyed reading your post. It is certainly a time for reinvention, relaunch and re-investment in life based on the one just lived to this point in time for boomers. I had an AHA moment about this just yesterday–I am starting a project to help “us” the boomers, re-imagine life and work–your way! For the past 30 years I have worked consulting, coaching and training first in the wellness field for the workplace and then on to leadership development based on holistic (Total Life Principles)

    I am now ready to go back to work with individuals who will face this new challenge of life and work as a boomer! Stayed tuned

  2. Nice post. I really can relate to this. I started out working with kids in after-school programs, got a masters degree, then started teaching special education, got a masters degree in special education (my bachelors degree is in political science,see I am all over the place).I moved out of the country with my wife and became a technical writer to better use my English Language skills. Now I am looking to reinvent myself again by becoming a freelance writer in multiple fields. For example, I am now taking a course over the Web in Grant Writing so that I can start writing grants for non-profits. I want to do this to have more time at home before my kids leave the house. Nice post and there are lots of ways to look at this.
    Thanks.

  3. Thanks Marc and David for posting! We each have so much to offer!

    What I didn’t say in my article was that for 32 years I was a flight attendant. When I retired, I started doing customer service training and somehow that morphed into writing and ta-dah! Here I am, writing for Boomer Cafe and 3 digital magazines without any official writer training.

    We’re all at a stage where we can live the dream,aren’t we?

  4. The pic of Slim Pickens is what caught my eye. Back in my late teens/early 20s I used to know his daughter, Maggie. Often when I’d pick her up for a date, I’d get to spend time talking with Slim. Pretty interesting guy. He told me the tale of how he got the name: Slim Pickens. As a young man he worked as a rodeo clown. A movie about rodeo was being filmed & Slim was featured in the movie to play the part of … you guessed it: a rodeo clown. Anyway, Slim said the pay for acting was way better than the pay for being an actual rodeo clown, so after the movie wrapped, Slim went in search of an agent to get more acting jobs. The agent told him, “Okay, I’ll represent you … but acting roles don’t come along every day. It’ll be slim pickings from here on.” So, he began using the stage name of Slim Pickens. Wikipedia has a different version of this story, but I heard it directly from the man himself.

    So, as you can see, Slim Pickens (from clown to actor) re-invented himself as well. I, too, have re-invented myself several times over the course of my life: went from nomadic surf/sail bum to businessman in very late 2os; businessman to lawyer in my 30s; from happy bachelor to even happier husband just before turning 40; became a published writer in my early 50s; and … best of all … became a first-time dad in my mid-50s! Change is good.

  5. Great post! As someone who knows she will probably have to work into her 70′s for financial reasons, and also for sanity reasons, it is interesting to think about reinventing what I will do (and enjoy) for those remaining years of employment. I’ve been in the same career for 23 years after a major career change, and although there are parts of it I love, there are parts of it that are becoming too stressful for a variety of reasons. So….have thought alot about reinvention of ME, and your post just reinforced my strategic thinking about where the next phase of my life will lead me!

  6. Really great post Marcia!

    It’s so encouraging to see people like yourself in the baby boomer generation who have bounced back from all sorts of situations in life and be able to reinvent yourself to truly enjoy yourself. Everyone should read your writing and learn by your example.

  7. Congratulations on your ability to keep growing and reinventing yourself. I’ve had the privilege of knowing a number of Baby Boomers (and seniors) who are incredibly vibrant people precisely because they adapt so well to the changing world around them. They are not afraid to experiment with new things, yet they know who they are and what they value.

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