The youngest of Generation X, Millennials, and iGen probably position and package Baby Boomers as Enemy.
They might perceive us as pigging out on the last of Social Security and Medicare. Clogging the professional pipeline for their upward mobility. And, because of our extensive business experience, making our enterprises way more competitive than what they have started up.
However, what they are likely unaware of is that we too have suffered. In fact, the pain was so intense, especially on the work front, that those experiences from the past did equip us to cope with the ageism of the now.
When financial reality first bit us in the pocket and ego we, unlike today, were not prepared for it. Not at all.
Post-war, the ethos of America was happy-clappy.
The Disney take on life dominated.
Guidance counselors in high school told us from blue-collar backgrounds that not only could we go to college but there was plenty of scholarship money to help out.
The Pill freed both sexes from the horror of ruining our lives through an unwanted pregnancy.
We bought the heady messaging that we were a new generation, entitled to a life our parents never even dreamed off.
So, no, we didn't think.
Among the ideologies we bought into, blindly, was: The more education the better.
I and my classmates didn't question that until we were struggling with our dissertations for the Ph.D. in some niche within the Humanities. It turned out that the surge in demand for college teachers in those niches, which the government had predicted, didn't happen. In fact, that market had crashed.
That was our first rodeo.
Employers who did give interviews for non-academic jobs smirked that we would invest some of our best earning years toiling for excellence.
Yes, all that education became a liability. It wasn't until we got worldlywise, finally, and left everything beyond the BA off the resume that we had a shot at making a good living.
The next rodeo was the severe recession of the 1970s. The generation who had broken away, often with great drama, from parents wondered if we might have to return home. How I escaped that fate was remembering my blue-collar hustle. I did land some kind of job.
The third rodeo was realizing that all those career experts didn't get it right. They told us to do this. They told us to do that.
We did this and we did that until we didn't receive the promotion they indicated would happen. What we then did was simply observe who was getting ahead and follow that example.
Within a few years of Monkey See/Monkey Do, I quadrupled my annual compensation. Eventually I did wind up heading a department of ghostwriters and speechwriters.
To my shock, I was among those informed that we were "redundant."
During the process, I developed TMJ. Fortunately I still had excellent medical coverage for seven months after termination and most of the problem got corrected "on the company."
Then came ageism.
Ageism grabbed me by the throat and threw me onto a Manhattan street soon after my 60th birthday. I remember the day vividly. It was hot and I trotting along in stockings, high heels, and a Coach attache case with my laptop.
I had ponied up the fee for parking near the New Haven, Connecticut railroad station, the expense for the round-trip Metro North commuter ticket to Grand Central, and a hot pretzel from a food cart.
Then when I walked into the conference room to present what I could do in terms of social media for that corporation, jaws dropped. Clearly, they hadn't expected someone my age. One blurted out, "How do you know social media?"
That was then.
Since that wasn't my first rodeo, I was faster in figuring out The Next.
That included relocating from the New York Metro area to where living was lots more affordable. Since I had aged out of the Manhattan market there was no reason to be there.
I shifted my marketing to only assignments which were remote. No more pitching in person.
I converted a side hustle - coaching the over-50 and ghostwriting about that issue - into a primary profit center.
And, since where I had relocated - southwestern Arizona - had less age bias, I picked up three part-time jobs through which I learned new technologies "on the company."
What I haven't been able to do, though, is accept the breakdown in relationships among generations. Back in the old neighborhood in the 1950s, we all got along.
Those who aren't hostile to Baby Boomers distance themselves. There are Great Divides in society. And, no, other generations are not interested in hearing our story. They assume our careers were all sweetness and light.
Reflection: Maybe AARP, advocacy organization for the aging, should take on the responsibility to tell the world the work challenges, most unexpected, we got through and are still encountering.
Contact Jane Genova firstname.lastname@example.org.