Archive for January, 2011
Worse, do your memories hold you back from seeking new opportunities? Or make you see yourself as a has-been rather than an “I could be?”
Maybe there are times when you, like me, yearn for your days in the sun. We remember when we were big shots, or held important positions, or made six figure salaries, or had this or that, etc. This may lead to the next step down the road of “stinking thinking,” to comparisons with our current situations. We can feel victimized or sidelined by events beyond our control.
If we continue on that road, we may conclude that since those days are gone, what’s the use of trying something new? Why bother to pursue unfulfilled dreams or ambitions? Better just sit back and enjoy the rest of our lives.
“I mustn’t give in.”
Most of you, I’m sure, have heard the ballad, Memory from the musical Cats. Some of you may even know the lyrics based in part on poems by T.S. Eliot. The highlight is when the old cat, Grizabella, reminisces about how easy it is to leave her all alone with her memory of her days in the sun. All the same, this determined old cat looks forward to the promise of a new day and a new life.
I must wait for the sunrise,
I must think of a new life,
And I mustn’t give in.”
Let your memories lead you.
Memories are such a powerful tool that they can uplift us or devastate us, inspire us or cripple us emotionally, gladden our hearts or enrage us. They can exalt us or hold us back.
Instead of letting our memories of our days in the sun drag us down, why not use them to motivate us to carry on and fulfill our unfulfilled dreams, passions, ambitions?
True, we’re not as young, attractive, energetic as before but we have qualities we didn’t have then. The former high flying business executive or aging actor/musician/sportsman, etc. may not fly high anymore, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop flying.
Instead of our memories pulling us back, why not use them to pull us into the future?
Smile at your old days in the sun.
Mine began when I was just 18 and hit New York City with $50 (roughly the equivalent of $500 today), one year’s college credits from a university in the Midwest, and all the bravado of one of the heroines in the bestseller and movie, The Best of Everything.
I stayed in a small hotel on the Upper East Side ($50 a night) and on my first day, went to an employment agency I found in the phone book.
In a new suit, I was a personable, bilingual (English/Spanish), with typing and writing skills, 22 year old (why not? In those days, they seldom checked age or credentials), with two years at a Liberal Arts college.
I was sent for an interview in the international section of an advertising agency. (Think of the TV show, Mad Men, which for me is a nostalgic reenactment of that time.) They needed someone who could type out, proofread and even edit, in both English and Spanish, medical newsletters destined for South America. I aced the typing, spelling and grammar tests, but what clinched the interview and got me the job was a missing accent mark in Spanish.
That is how I began my 30 year career in advertising – because of a missing accent mark.
My advertising career ended in mid life with so-called early retirement. Then I had years of ups and downs before starting a new career that lasted a decade until the current economic environment slowed things down.
Make your today another memory worth looking back on.
If I could make it then, why can’t I make it again? And so can all of you in your late fifties and sixties who may think that you’ve come to the end of the road. Agreed that today’s demands are very different from then, and technology rules the world, and it’s tough keeping up.
But… it was tough for a woman trying to get ahead in the early sixties. Perhaps as tough as for a woman in her sixties trying to get ahead in today’s world.
I have to remember that plucky young girl in New York. Something of her must still be lying inside me waiting to come out again. I don’t have her looks or her energy or her age anymore. But I do have the wisdom of years of experience – and many memories that I can draw on to take me into my new day.
For that new day awaits us all, whatever our age, if we can just look at it as a new opportunity.
Instead of saying, “I used to,” we should be saying, “I can still” make it.
As Grisabella sings in the theatrical version:
“Let your memory lead you
Open up, enter in
If you find there the meaning of what happiness is
Then a new life will begin.”
Scenic photograph courtesy of Veronica Valades
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
At 67, I am not dying. Yet. However, my age group is often treated as if we were at the start of a prolonged death march.
And I will rage and rage against the dying of my light and that of my generation.
We gave light and warmth to a world darkened by war and oppression.
Our generation was the offspring of The Greatest Generation, those who fought in WWII. My English father and American mother met during the war, and I was a war baby born in England to the sound of bombs, and spent my childhood in grim post war England.
Meanwhile, the 50s generation in the U.S. were smug, conservative in their victory, swathed in security and newfound luxuries, and determined to lead lives centered on doing the right thing. A woman’s place was in the home and a man’s in the workplace. Frank Sinatra sang, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” Then Elvis shocked the nation with his, “I’m all shook up!” until the bosses found a way – military service, movies – to calm him down, and eventually turn him into an overweight, drug addicted Las Vegas entertainer.
We grew up to become the generation of the 60s. We changed popular to have meaning – Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Peter, Paul and Mary. Women lifted their hemlines from mid-calf almost to their thighs, men were released from hats and formal wear, changed customs and attitudes relaxed – men and women could actually sleep or live together openly, and we protested when we disagreed with politics and national policy (Vietnam). Women aspired to and found work in former male only professions.
We overcame a stuffy Establishment to start the modern world, the one inherited by the current generation.
Then we stopped raging and protesting, and most of us settled into respectability, using our creativity and energies to create a better world for our kids. Women carved careers for themselves in a male dominated world so that nowadays, female executives are as much a part of the corporate world as their male counterparts.
We never thought we’d reach an age when the younger generation would start to shove us aside like old relics. We never dreamed the day might come when formerly successful professionals would be out on a limb, scrabbling for work – any work – in mid-life. Or that many of us would be no longer employable despite our qualifications and experience, or broke because of lost jobs, or family homes foreclosed or, except for some notable exceptions, shunted aside. We never thought we’d become victims of another depression caused by the greedy generation that followed ours.
Perhaps some of you can accept this and go gentle into the night of your life.
Or the alternative:
Rage, rage against the dying of our light for as long as we can.
I, for one, prefer the latter choice. What about you?
We raged when we were young and got things done. We still have our voices and we can rage again.
One voice added to another. Mine added to yours added to someone else’s and so on can build up to a lot of middle age voices clamoring to be heard.
Just imagine if a large number of us protested, for example, age discrimination in the workplace.
The same way we used to.
For one thing, it would shock the younger generation. That we still have it in us. That we’re not going out without a fight. That we’re capable of moving again in tandem, but this time against the entitled younger generation that has not learned from history that it repeats itself over and over again.
What awaits them in 30-40 years?
I’m not ready to be shoved aside. Nor are many of my generation or even older.
Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa at 67 after 28 years’ imprisonment.
John McCain was a presidential candidate (a grueling ordeal) at 72.
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi may be making a long overdue return after years of house arrest.
The world is rife with people over sixty who have more than enough energy to go around.
To mention a few: Hilary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, Martha Stewart, Nancy Pelosi, Arianna Huffington, Isabel Allende, Doris Lessing, Steven King, Michael Bloomberg, Donald Trump, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Richard Branson
How about the entertainment world? Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, Martin Scorsese, Cher, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney.
I could add a lot more names and so can you, to that list.
Join my voice that you will not go gentle into the night.
Instead, you will rage, rage against the dying of your light.
Photograph courtesy of Veronica Valades
In the 1976 movie “Network,” anchorman Howard Beale shouted, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
All over the country, people opened their windows and shouted out this statement at the top of their lungs. Much of what he said is still relevant today. (Watch Network-I’m mad as hell on U-tube.com)
Are you mad as hell? If you aren’t, you should be.
Well, I am, and I’m not going to take this anymore. I have my own soapbox, this blog, and so I can do something about it – if only shouting to the world from this corner of mine.
Here’s a New Year’s essay that I wrote two years ago:
January 1st, 2009
“Thus ends a year, and one, so small a thing, they never knew their hopes for 2009 were all a dream.” I paraphrase partly from a poem by W.H.Davies.
I hate to see another year end mainly because it’s like losing an old friend. A loss of 365 days that I’ll never see again. One year less in my life, but one year’s gain in wisdom and experience. I see all those eager, cheering young faces braving the cold in Times Square with their hopes, God bless them, of the promise of a new year. What are they celebrating? That suddenly, miraculously, there will be a rebound to former glory days with Barack Obama leading the parade, and that the God of Peace will intervene and stop the slaughter and wars and brewing hatreds in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Georgia, Ukraine, etc.
2009 will be, I fear, another year of diminishing hopes. Hamas and Israel are at each other’s throats again – have they ever stopped? – sending rockets into each other’s backyards. After the attack on Mumbai, India and Pakistan are massing forces on their borders – or haven’t they been at war for years using the once peaceful paradise of Kashmir as their battleground? A million dead in the Republic of Congo – but who seems to care? Child soldiers and genocide in Sierra Leone and Darfur, and the Lord only knows where else. Iraq supposedly has quieted down, but Afghanistan has heated up and beware intruders in that country. Once blooming Rhodesia is now a crumbling Zimbabwe. Conflicts in Latin America such as the increasingly deadly struggle with the narcos in Mexico. China is all over the place – as in your local Wal-Mart, set on world dominance through economic trade. Everyone owes them. How many trillions? Water shortages versus floods. Hundred of thousands dead due to malnutrition, diseases, natural disasters. Overpopulation.
And who are the true masters of this world who pull our strings? The ones who have either screwed up terribly – or deliberately – in order to establish and continue world chaos. Arms dealers. Oil tycoons. Bankers, those money lenders, launderers, and usurers who are impoverishing many who dare stick their heads up from below the middle-class belt.
What about religions and their influence? The Vatican has lost its grip to disbelief and scandal. Fundamentalist Christians influence political decisions in this country. Extremist Muslim fundamentalists breed terrorist groups to undermine political stability in predominantly Muslim countries and in major cities in the West (New York, Madrid, London). 9/11 was just the beginning.
Who cares about the man on the street when the problems are so overwhelming? He’s just an excuse to win votes. No soup kitchen in the world can feed everyone. Instead, this country has been fed on a sense of entitlement, fast food, over-the-top dreams, neurosis, drugs, paranoia, invisible power – whether from God or the White House, oil dependency, mysterious ailments for which big pharmaceutical companies offer relief – but watch out for multiple side effects – and addiction, shadowy enemies stronger than real ones, and the hangover effect of 9/11 – that blow to our national ego.
Nothing is as it seems and nothing is the truth.
It took money – and lots of it – for the powers-to-be to place the most unexpected, unlikely candidate at the helm. Like many others, I hope Obama will rise to the occasion. Symbolically speaking, he offers a sorely needed hope, but will those hidden forces that manage the world stand behind him or let him be ravaged when current woes don’t disappear? Can he save this ship from foundering on the rocks of disaster? Only if they say so.
What about people like me trying to make a new start in middle age?
We continue to exist in this bubble constructed by others, our very subsistence at the mercy of those “in power.” Should we sit back and take it as banks foreclose our homes and big companies lay us off, and we get told we’re too old/overqualified/outdated or whatever other excuses they dream up, to hire? While our lives may not exactly be in our hands to dispose of the way we’d like to or plan, there may be something we can do to make them more our own.
Ours is the generation that took on the Establishment in the 60s. We can’t all be sinking into old age and allowing ourselves to be lulled into submission.
What’s happened to the generation that shouted, sang, wrote, pleaded, protested, and got mad as hell when we saw injustices happening? We still have voices to be heard plus years of accumulated experience and knowhow.
So let’s be Mad as Hell and do Something about it.
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