It has been a long time since I was a teenager. For some of you, it has been an even longer time, and for a very few of you who read the column, you still are teenagers.
I assure you, teenagers who read this column, this is not going to be one of those instances where the old man takes a minute out of yelling about his lawn to give you some valuable life advice. As an old man, I have given plenty of advice. Rarely has it been good.
I always make an argument that I offered advice and not “good advice,” so you are asking at your own risk. I knew a guy who would give relationship advice all the time, but he’d been married and divorced seven times, so I never put much stock in what he had to say.
That aside, I want to talk about changing the world.
Before you stop reading, I assure you I am not going to bore you with some long and boring social justice diatribe through which you’ve already suffered at the hands of other journalists. This is going to be different.
There will be no need to protest or petition, so just grab a cup of coffee and cool your jets for a few minutes, as this is nostalgic and not combustible.
Many years ago, my generation thought it was going to be the one to change the world. I don’t suppose we really knew how we were going to do it because our ideas were brilliant, but our motivation was so-so.
My generation was an odd one. We were the children of the children of the 1950s. Some of us had very young parents, and we were the children of the children of the early to mid-1960s.
I was born on the very first day of the 1970s, and now my generation has become the grandparents. I’m OK with that because I was old as a kid. I was old as a teenager and I am old as a middle-aged man. I think it was what I was meant to be. My wife jokes that I was born middle-aged and just stayed there until my numerical age caught up with me.
My generation is known as Generation X, and we are the last of the traditional generations. We are the last of the old-school “get a job, get married, have kids and eventually retire” generation. We might be a bit slower now, but 35 years ago, we were going to change the world.
My parents’ generation was inspired by the turbulent ‘60s. Every few years, it seemed, a public figure was being killed. An unpopular war raged on the other side of the world. The sexual revolution was in full swing.
For my generation, it looked exciting. We didn’t have any of that. We had New Coke, and we all know how that turned out.
We wanted something to call our own, and there were no wars to fight, capitalism was the big fad and it was all about style. Well, that’s how it looked in our decidedly inexperienced eyes.
We were going to be the corporate raiders. We all were going to be rich and good looking and live a life of glamour. We weren’t exactly sure how we were going to get there, but we were. I can’t say we didn’t have much purpose or direction, but we didn’t have a lot of it. It was all about looking good and having things.
It’s funny now, because most of us are boring people in our 50s with minivans and mortgages and kids and church and we complain about our commute, our jobs and our arthritis. We are not the Greatest Generation.
Take a minute and think of your own generation. Think about going to a high school football game and then going out for milkshakes afterward. Think about talking to your best friend on the telephone and stretching the cord as long as it would stretch so your mother didn’t hear what you had to say. Think about sitting in the grass on a summer night and talking with your friends about how it’s going to be when you are a grownup.
Now, take a minute and look back. Did it turn out the way you had it planned? Probably not. That’s quite OK.
I was thinking about it the other day. I was angry about something and I got a little mad and snapped at my wife because something I wanted was unobtainable at that very moment. This was not how I thought things were going to turn out, and I was damned angry about that.
I calmed down and reassessed. I have more than a lot of people. If you asked me 25 years ago if I would have the things I have now, I would have laughed at you.
I have the best wife on the planet. I still say she is the greatest souvenir I ever got from New York.
I have two gorgeous daughters and two wonderful grandsons. I have a couple of cats and a small house with a small yard and a job that I like.
I don’t have a billion dollars, but I am happy. I found something that I should have found all those years ago.
I didn’t have to change the whole world. I just changed mine.
Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.
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