I turned 58 this year and as is the case sometimes, it seems like an opportunity for reflection. So, reflect I will.
I was born in June of the year of our Lord 1965, which sounds like it’s quite a while ago, even for me! A few things about the year that help cement is in its time:
- Unemployment was 4.1%. Today it’s 3.7%. Not much change on that front, I suppose.
- Johnson required cigarette makers to print health warnings on cigarette packages about the harmful effects of smoking. In 1965, 45% of people smoked. Today the rate is down to 12.5%. So, yeah, that’s an improvement.
- In 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. How the hell is it we’re still fighting this fight 58 years later? That’s some bullshit.
Some food trends from 1965:
- Baked Alaska
- Frozen TV dinners
- Gelatin molds
- Lipton Onion Soup dip
- Lobster Newberg
- Teem (lemon and lime flavored soft drink)
- Tuna noodle casserole
- Tunnel of Fudge cake
- Waldorf salad
Well, okay, not a great year for food, it would seem.
Some food prices:
- Apples (red delicious): 19 cents for a three-pound bag
- Bacon (Armour Star): 69 cents for a one-pound package
- Bananas: Three pounds for 29 cents
- Beef (ground chuck): 59 cents a pound
- Butter (Land O’Lakes): 69 cents for a one-pound package
- Cake mix (Pillsbury): $1.00 for four 19-ounce boxes
- Cereal (Post Crispy Critters): 44 cents for a 13-ounce box
- Milk (nonfat): 95 cents a gallon
- Onions: 10 cents for a three-pound bag
- Oranges (Temple): 49 cents for ten
Red Delicious, still the scourge of elementary school lunches ten years later. I don’t recall the last time I had to eat a Red Delicious apple. Progress!
The median income in the US was $6900 per year in 1965 and about $69000 today for a 10x improvement. Neat! However, the average rent was around $75 per month (depending on where you lived and various other bits of data) in 1965. Today it’s around $1700. That’s a 23x more expensive over the same period.
I recall growing up that one of the measures of “success” in the US was whether your kids’ generation was likely to make more than your generation. According to an article from the Brookings institute, when I was born, roughly 60% of my birth cohort (those born in 1965) would grow up to make more than their parents. Because I was fortunate enough to go to college and I chose a field where I was paid well for being smart, I made more than my parent’s generation by the time I was 30. So, that worked out well for me.
In the years since that time, that percentage has fallen to below 50%. So, in my lifetime, I watched that inflection so less than half of the kids born clear back in and around 1990 will make more than their parents. And it’s not getting better. It’s getting worse.
One of the things I feel as I get older is an obligation to apologize to my kids and future generations for the job we did with our country and the world. Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, told scouts to “try to leave this world a little better than you found it” in his last message. “Leave it better than you found it”. Yeah, I think we tried some things and some things are marginally better, but if we’re talking about the world as a whole or even just the US, I don’t think we did a great job.
I recall talking to someone about why certain immigrant groups still tend to lean towards Republicans when it seems so clear that many in current Republican leadership hate them. The most reasonable explanation seemed to come down to when folks get older, they begin to act to protect what they have rather than look out for those following them. So, in some of these immigrant communities, they see the Republicans as protecting what they have worked so hard for, even if it makes it harder for the younger members of their own community. It becomes an “us versus them” kind of thing and we vote, too often, for protecting ourselves. That’s an area where I feel like my generation has not done well, but I suspect that’s been true for much longer than just my generation.
I sit astride the Boomer Generation and Gen X, as I was born in 1965. A dumb article I googled, claims that Boomers include the following characteristics:
- Strong and focused work ethic
- Value relationships
- Enjoy quality and excellence
Whereas Gen X apparently:
- Gen X values autonomy
- Gen X expects flexibility
- Gen X expects clear goals and deliverables
- Gen X pursues education
- Gen X is comfortable with technology
Yeah, pretty much all of those things apply to me and my career, so I sit comfortably across those descriptive groups. And it’s worked out fine for me!
I’m also a firstborn with two younger siblings, so I grew up with all of the expectations that came with that role in my family unit:
I’m apparently a bit of a cliche, I suppose. The result of a lot of expectations. Some explicit, some implicit. Some externally placed and many that I have placed on myself over the years.
I’ve been retired now for three years. Or, nearly so. My Independence Day is officially July 3rd (my final employer apparently thought giving me that final Friday, July 4th as a paid holiday when it was also my last day was a bridge too far).
One of the things I’ve enjoyed best about retirement is that instead of spending about 40 years operating under expectations largely externally placed, whether by school or jobs or life, now whatever expectations I operate under and primarily placed by me. While I still operate in conjunction with my amazing wife and partner, and I still live in a larger community that I am a part of, the person I am most responsible to is myself and that has been freeing in a way that I had not expected. And, so far, I love it.
I try not to wonder too hard or too long about how long this phase will last. I can’t predict my health and I can’t predict how long taking care of our current place will still be fun and reasonable to do as I get older. But, if I had to guess, we’re a year and a half into what I expect will be five to eight years of being here. Then, we’ll do something different. Something that reflects where we are in our life at that time. I’m grateful for that flexibility and I plan on enjoying it as long as we reasonably can!