You gotta hand it to baby boomer Alan Paul of Hawthorne, New Jersey. He isn’t standing still. He’s out there looking for new passions. And he has just found another one. In a bag.
I’m 69 years old. Three score and nine. A full thirty-nine years beyond the boundary at which, as an idealistic but foolish young man, I should cease to trust those who had reached that lofty milestone.
At my current advanced age, I find that I have developed a new passion: I love barbecue-flavored potato chips. I’m not sure that prior to a few weeks ago, I had ever tasted a bbq-flavored potato chip. But on an impulse-buy recently at Kilroy’s Wonder Market in Glen Rock, New Jersey, I purchased a bag of bbq-flavored potato chips and, truth be told, now I can’t live without them.
There are other things and people I am passionate about: my wife, my daughter and (somewhat to my surprise) her new husband Jon, who has quickly become the son I never had. Music, and writing, and photography. A whole lot of stuff, now that I think about it. What is surprising, though, is that I can add to my collection of passions as I advance in age. Didn’t my passion quotient maximize itself many years ago? Isn’t there an age at which human beings are required to give up the acquisition of new passions and pleasures? Shouldn’t we be expected to more-or-less ease gracefully and passively into advanced age while yielding the pursuit of passion to those young enough to truly appreciate it?
I guess not, assuming that my own experience is comparable to yours. Perhaps this ability to acquire passion late in life is a genetic mutation of the Boomer breed. After all, aren’t we the generation that goes grudgingly into “senior” status, kicking, scratching, and biting all the way? Damn straight we are! So why shouldn’t we be willing — even eager — to pursue previously undiscovered passions well into our golden-oldie years?
When I was contemplating retirement a few years before my 66th birthday, my wife Jan would shake her head and purse her lips disapprovingly. “I don’t know,” she would say, a clear note of foreboding in her voice. “I think that everything starts to shrivel up once you retire.” I have to admit that the image formed in my mind of everything shriveling up did cause me, if only briefly, to reconsider the plan. But the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that retirement (for me, at least) could be an inflating, rather than a shriveling, experience.
In July 2015 here at BoomerCafé, I wrote a piece about “Life’s Greatest Pleasures” in which I said, “One of the things that this boomer’s advancing age has taught me is that one must take the time, especially as we get older, to do as many of the things that give us pleasure, as often as we can possibly do them.” At the time, I wasn’t sure that we could acquire new passions as we edge ever closer to our inevitable rendezvous with Norman Greenbaum’s apocryphal Spirit in the Sky. Now, with the enlightenment supplied by bbq-flavored potato chips, I am convinced.
Italian film director Federico Fellini, one of the most passionate people who ever lived, once said, “There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life.” Si, cosi vero. Yes, so true.