You’re going along in your happy little day when out of the corner of your eye, on a shiny surface, you unexpectedly catch the reflection of your mom or dad. The problem is, you’re not with your mom or dad. Yep, that reflection is you. Perhaps on a different day you’re browsing social media and come across a recent picture of a high school chum that you haven’t seen in years. You can’t believe your eyes; surely this can’t be them! But you know that it is and at that moment, you’re forced to deal with a reality you’ve been pushing to the back of your mind: your own aging. When things like this happen, we experience a “wow” moment about our world and ourselves, and an inner voice exclaims: “Is this really happening!?”
Growing older can feel strange and surreal. Lately I’ve thought about what is really at the heart of these feelings, and I’ve come up with a couple of things that I believe, at least for me, are applicable. Perhaps these will have a familiar ring to them.
The mindset of a generation
I was born into the baby-boom generation, and although I came along during its latter years, I always felt a strong connection to it while growing up. Our generation was defined as “the ‘youth’ generation,” thanks mostly to marketing strategies of the early 1960s. The label stuck - but to grow up during this time meant more than just the wearing of a group label; it was to have a “live young” mindset stamped into one’s consciousness. While my older generational cohorts were celebrating life and dancing freely in Golden Gate Park, I was yet a girl, watching them at home on TV. Still, I felt there was something we shared – an unspoken code which said: “We will always be young and always be cool.” This life-attitude may have begun with boomers, but likely influenced older members of Generation X who followed on our heels and are now are in mid-life themselves. For those of us with this mindset, the thought of growing older seemed so far off, maybe even impossible. But then, “the impossible” happened. The lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Old Friends” may be ringing in our ears: “How terribly strange to be seventy.”
The old role switcheroo
Boomer roots are not all there is to it, though. Another source of surreal feelings I experience about aging likely stem from the evolution of my life-roles, having gone from “the baby” of my family to taking on tasks or family responsibilities previously performed by sage elders. In younger years, there was a sense of security when the older family members were carrying out family traditions. When the torch was passed to me, I could not help but ask an internal question: “Will I measure up?” One does not need to be the family baby to experience such moments. Regardless of our birth order, if we’re in mid-life, we have transitioned through life-role changes - inside and outside of the family.
Our awareness of aging and the journey we are on resonates on many levels, passing through our consciousness and touching on our perceptions about life, ourselves and our memories. While getting here may have felt like a strange journey, mid-life, or even approaching 70, can be a time of fulfillment, with lots of cool things to do! Please join me in two weeks as we discuss how belonging to a “youth generation” can influence our approach to the life we are living now.
Cindy works as an employment development counselor and is a mother and grandmother. She has lived in Sonoma County for 28 years.