Times of great change and upheaval, such as we are experiencing now, carry the gift of opportunity with them: transformation, renewal, regeneration. The phrase that I've been hearing in my mind lately is that we are re-inventing ourselves. I think this is true of the collective human race, and the potential is there on an individual level as well.
I especially see it in people my age, the Baby Boomers, those in their late 40s through mid-60s. My generation started off in the 1960s with a bang ... civil rights, women's liberation, gay rights, an awakening environmental awareness, and the idea that war may not actually be a necessary part of human existence. In general, we carried on the momentum created by our Depression-era parents during the post-WWII years: their hope for the future, their sense of power and optimism that they could create an abundant world for their children. Then their world cracked open in the 1960s, with the Cold War, JFK's assassination and Vietnam. We were there to both widen the breach and extract the budding flower from within.
I can recall a feeling back then of infinite possibility, that we didn't have to do things the way they'd "always" been done, or settle for the status quo. We pushed the boundary of what was considered normal and acceptable. And we took action on it, seeming to realize our connection with humanity as a whole, knowing that our acts had greater consequences, and capitalizing on that fact.
Boomer women are the ones who established -- through our ongoing way of living our lives, not just by philosophizing or protesting in the streets -- that women are equal to men. The same can be said about all of the various human rights movements. The result is that subsequent generations take for granted the things we created one step at a time. Although sometimes I hear complaining from my fellow Boomers (myself included) about that, when you think about it, what better thanks could we get?
Our generation does not seem to have aged in the way that previous generations did, either. My grandmothers, born in the 1890s, were elderly by the age of sixty (although they continued to live for another twenty-plus years.) That's almost the age I am now. Those amazing times in the '60s opened the way to so much change, not only in the way human beings live but in how we think.
Then something happened. After we settled into adulthood, careers, and raising families, it seemed as though the Boomers stepped back, almost out of sight. I can recall, when we were all contemplating the millenium back in 1999-2000, thinking how mundane, downright materialistic, and turned in on itself life had become. What had happened to us Boomers? Where did our fire, passion and sense of adventure go; those things that had moved humanity forward? Were we "one-shot wonders" whose time had come and gone thirty years ago?
At the time, something inside of me said, "No. We Boomers have something else to do. Contrary to popular opinion, our time has not passed. It hasn't even arrived yet." It took a few tumultuous years more, but here we are.
The human race is in the process of re-inventing itself, and I believe that we Boomers have something important to contribute to that process. Looking at myself and listening to others my age, it's as if our passion for life, our sense of adventure, and our intrinsically optimistic nature are re-awakening. Those are perhaps even more powerful now, being grounded in life experience and the kind of perspective that only age can bring.
It takes a certain innocence and idealism to believe that one can, in fact, re-invent oneself, and then to take action on that belief, especially when the world appears to be falling apart around us. As our younger and much more cynical fellow human beings can tell you (often with a lot of eye-rolling), the Boomers have that innocence and idealism, in spades. So stand back and watch, or join in, if you dare. The fun is about to begin.