It’s my birthday today and as I transition from the big 5-0, into my “fifties,” I’m actually feeling rather young, as if today is my first birthday of a new life, which indeed, it is. Yesterday, I sat in an over air-conditioned iceberg of a Starbucks for three hours, speaking with a woman of my generation who was “restructured” from the sister firm of my former employer. While this introduction was facilitated by our mutual outplacement group because we have skills that we may find compatible; what we immediately hold in common is eagerness and excitement to get on with our individual reinventions.
As I engaged in dialogue with this informed, intelligent, articulate and dynamic woman, we agreed how different we are from our mothers’ generation. At an age when our moms were winding down in their child raising careers and truly becoming old, not only do we still march in the thick of our kids’ development, we are also pursuing new ventures outside of our families. I am struck with a statement that my outplacement counselor has made on several occasions: “We’ve done what we are supposed to do; now it is time to do what we want to do.”
Believe me, being able to spend time reinventing myself is a luxury for which I am grateful, and it leads to a whole subject matter to explore here--how we tail-end Baby Boomers did what was expected of us. We followed the rules and knuckled under for the benefit of our families and our employer, whereas if the later Generation X-ers didn't like something in the the work force they said, "See you later, this isn't working for me.” Perhaps some of that self interest ricocheted off of that group though, because if you asked me today I’d say: “I performed well in my former role, but now it is time to create a career that I feel passionate about.”
I am not the only one. A woman I know whose position was eliminated at the same time as mine has several years on me but is actively looking for employment at an age she could consider retirement. She stands completely open to relocation and new beginnings. Another former peer, my age, revels in her part time retail position, while she investigates multiple opportunities. A former Vice President I spoke to at a recent networking gathering contemplates writing a book on a topic at another end of the spectrum from her former career. Several of us are developing plans to put skill sets to work in imaginative ways that we weren’t able to exploit previously. Many of us are volunteering; using the breadth of our talents to benefit both established organizations and individuals.
We come with the promise of energy and experience and critical thinking and knowledge, as well as high expectations as to what will occur next in our careers. I have a theory that in about five years, there will articles and studies focusing on my generation of women. These reports will celebrate how when this economic crisis kicked us in the shins we elbowed it back by hustling out there and fashioning new businesses, new Web sites, educating ourselves, mentoring others, engaging in new endeavors and generally rising above the occasion, in an ultimate benefit to us as individuals as well as to society.
In the long run, this second toddler-hood will offer all sorts of gifts. Hope you don't mind, but I'm going to wish myself a happy first birthday and raise my glass to many more.