Sunday, April 5

Wondering about "normal"

I had to laugh out loud, and literally out loud, when I skimmed this article. The one thing that stood out is that everyone wants the world to return to normal. And, to be honest, I stopped even skimming after that.

I'd jut gotten back from going to the bank and the grocery. I wiped down the ATM keyboard and screen before I used it and then wiped it down again after I used it. Not normal. I put on gloves when I went into the grocery store, made sure I had a two-cart distance between me and other shoppers, pondered those who were wearing masks or some facsimile compared to those of us who weren't, wondered if the people behind the deli counter should be wearing masks (they probably should), noted the store workers who were wearing gloves and/or masks and those who weren't, took note of what shelves are still relatively empty and those that aren't, and offered up several prayers of gratitude that most of what I wanted and needed was on the shelves and that I can easily get to the store. Most of that not normal.

I thought about how empty the streets are. Not normal.

I noted how friendly people are even as they maintain their distance and even as there distinct degrees of quiet and sombreness.

I find I think a lot about what the world will be like once we emerge on the other side of the pandemic. I wonder, too, about other parts of the world and how isolated I feel from really knowing what's happening in other parts of the world. It's as though the media is no longer able to get information from other parts of the world. So I worry about the locusts in Africa and have to go find that information myself. Did you even know about the locust plague in Africa?

In truth, the locust plague in Africa is of less concern to me than the thousands of kids who aren't eating in the United States because schools are closed. And yet I see there are school districts that have found truly creative solutions through the monster efforts of their cafeteria staffs who prepare meals and get them loaded on school buses to be distributed to families.

I do wonder about education and if we'll be able to take advantage of this situation to really rethink what education is and how we should do it. I wonder if we'll take serious notice of the depth of the digital divide and how many of our children don't have access and what we should do to ensure they do have access.

I wonder if teachers and parents and administrators will think differently about the work of teachers and what should really be their responsibilities and what should really be the responsibilities of parents and guardians.

I wonder about the future of work and the nature of work. What jobs will change? What jobs will disappear? How will the work place have to evolve and not just because we might worry about another pandemic, but because we should be less complacent about the possibility of tragedy.

I wonder how long it will take for us to become complacent again.

I wonder how long it will take for us to be noisy and raucous and focused on ourselves again. 

I wonder if we will spend so much time yearning for a return to whatever seems normal that we won't take advantage of this amazing opportunity to change and change for the better.

I wonder if having this time to think and reflect, having this time to appreciate the Earth, will get swallowed back up into the need to return to whatever we thought normal was and is.

I wonder how long it will take to get back to devastating levels of smog and pollution once industries do their best to return to whatever they think is and should be normal, though the Earth is vibrating less and pollution levels are down. . . for now.


I wonder how many of us are and will be more traumatized than we realize as we gauge the distance between us and strangers, as we find ourselves counting cars in a parking lot, as we pause for that split second if we happen to cough to assess how our lungs feel. I wonder how much our social attitudes and behaviors will change and what will really be most important.

I wonder how many of us are thinking about the nature of our relationships and, if we don't have much family, how much we counted on work colleagues and even moderately good friends with whom we used to get together periodically. I wonder how much more effort many of us are making to connect in various ways--social media, texts, email, even letters.

I wonder if we'll be able to see the world differently because the pandemic is affecting the world. I wonder if we'll be able to see beyond our borders differently, if there's a chance we can all be more compassionate or if we'll find that even more of us will be victimized by the power players who think only about the themselves and how much power and money they can grab because of other people's misery.

I want to have faith in people and our ability to connect, be empathetic, be compassionate, but too much of what I read seems to be about those who are grabbing for headlines, grabbing for power, grabbing to shape the world in whatever narrow way they see it, which is one of the reasons I read less news and tend to skim a lot of the stories I read regardless of the source.

I wonder if we really have an idea of what "normal" is or if what we think we want is whatever was before and that we'll consider normal to be whatever comes after, but I wonder if we realize that whatever happens after and whatever we become and do and are after will never, ever be like what was before. That normal will be different, no matter what.

Thursday, December 26

Why I'm embracing "OK Boomer"

There's been a lot of media hand-wringing over the phrase "OK Boomer" and what it's supposed to mean and imply. Whatever.

I'm old enough not to be triggered.

An article in the Wall Street Journal states that somehow the phrase indicates irrelevance. I suppose that's one way to look at it. Good grief, every younger generation has done an eye roll at the older generation and every older generation has experienced varying degrees of mystification and frustration by, about, and with the younger generation. Right on. That's the way it goes and probably always has gone. Deal with it, people.

Not so long ago a young woman addressing the New Zealand parliament had her moments of viral fame when she responded "OK Boomer" to someone who seemed to express shock about or disagreement with what she said. The person who responded to her speech was identified as a "heckler" by our clickbait-happy media, though on any of the videos whatever the individual said can't be heard. We can only see Chloe Swarbrick raise her hand and say, "OK Boomer."

The Washington Post reported it this way:
Is that what happened? Did he "jeer"? Maybe. If what he said was indiscernible, how does the reporter know the colleague "jeered at her age"?

Was that "devastating concision" or just an annoyed "I don't have time for you" response. Other reports differ and I think it's because the media wants to make much ado about nothing much.

I agree with Bob Clark of the Smoky Mountain News who wrote that Boomers just need to settle down. Yes, many of us are not retiring yet. We still feel vibrant and a bit puzzled we're in this age bracket, and many others are like me and enjoy working. I'm still learning and figuring things out. And, while I have some issues with the younger generation, I have a lot of issues too with those still living and doing (and driving!) who are in my parents' generation.

So it has been and so it shall likely always be. Deal with it, people.

It's hard for younger generations to understand why we don't or why we didn't because they can't, won't, or don't comprehend the constraints in which we lived or how very much the world has and hasn't changed in our and their short lives. I have to laugh because, well, when they're our ages, they will understand better just as we began to understand the longer we lived and the more perspective we gained. It is the way things work.

I just read an article about 9 people who prove there should be a different perspective on Boomers, which is also the way of things. We see myopically--from our vantage points of age or youth, from the variances of our experiences and our expectations. Of the nine, five had direct impact on the technology that renders the younger generations the so-called "digital natives." They are the "digital pioneers" without whom there would be no iPhone, no laptop computers or tablets, no internet, no capability for Facebook, Tik Tok, or any other social media app. Sure, those things would likely have been invented eventually, but those five are the ones responsible for the technology world as we know it. What other Boomers have had and have an indelible impact on the world as we know it? For good or for ill? Well, that number might be hard to calculate.

What others also forget is how far and fast the Boomers pushed the technology and its capabilities so the Millennials could do what they do to push it even farther. And it's not as those Boomers aren't still behind some pretty impressive inventions, movements, and development that benefit not only Boomers but make a significant difference in lives of Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z and whatever labels come after, though most of those don't get the kind of fanfare the latest video game or smartphone get.

And Millennials have and will have their share of inventions, movements, and development that get little to no attention and yet have significant impact, just as Gen X and Gen Z will. It is the way of things.

I was talking with some Millennials the other day and asked them when they became aware that there was a world bigger than their own community. It was an interesting discussion. I asked, I told them, because I worry about the K-12 students I see who seem to have no creativity and little curiosity about the world. They seem to be most concerned about FOMO and FOLO, especially those who whip out their phones between classes to see what happened to others while they were in class though most everyone they know really should have been in class, too. Those students are among the reasons I don't yet want to retire; why I think, I hope, I still have something to offer.

In January 2019 I wrote about retirement because it is a question often raised to and about us Boomers. Are some of us leaving a mess? Yes, but a lot of us are fighting with those of us who insist there is no mess. Just as Boomers were often at the front of any wave of activism, Boomers often continue to support and often lead the way for change. Why? Well, we know stuff. We've lived with and through stuff. Many of us have experienced aggressions and microaggressions and either put up with it because we had to, or started the landslide of action that fought back.

And we don't trigger easily.

In the mean time, I'm going to get older. There's no way around that. I'm likely going to get more crotchety and less patient with the younger generation. Sheesh, there are times I already sound like my mother's mother and that's more than a little terrifying.

And like my grandmother and my mother, I hope to keep contributing in some way until I can contribute no more. I hope my contributions will make sense and be of value, even if only to my small sphere of influence. I hope my contributions will further influence those who influence others because, yes, that is the way of things.

Friday, January 4

Retirement? Why?

I met with a financial advisor the other day and we talked about retirement. He was asking for financial planning reasons, of course, but I'd been thinking about the whys and wherefores of retirement even before I saw this article in The Guardian.

My mom retired around 65, when people are "supposed" to retire. Her husband was already retired and they'd had plans to travel. I'm not sure exactly where things went haywire, but they did and my personal and non-medical opinion is that their lack of engagement in the world around them led to their mental declines. Other than the fact that my stepdad was already retired, I wasn't really sure why Mom chose to retire because she liked her work and she was good at it.

I have a friend who retired early. He could and so he did, though part of his motivation had to do with the potential future status of his pension. He's younger than I by several years and he now spends most of his time putzing. He and a friend bought a cottage and he goes to the cottage every now and then; he helps people around the neighborhood. But he also spends a lot of time alone. 

I have another friend who is countdown mode for her retirement, but I also know how active she and her family are and how active they're likely to continue to be. I'm guessing she'll find plenty of things to keep her occupied.

We know the Boomer population is big and we know the leading edge of Boomers is beginning retirement, and we know that many of them are without sufficient retirement funds which could be part of the reason we keep on working.

We know that work place bias against older folks exists and most of us understand the thinking behind that bias. Even though plenty of us are digital pioneers, those who were also part of the leading edge of creating the ever-expanding digital phenomena of our time, there are far too many who think old people don't know how to use technology or are unable or unwilling to learn. Good grief! Stop that already.

I remember teaching a BOCES class years (and years!) ago to a large group of senior citizens. They had signed up to learn how to use a computer and the basics of word processing, back when Microsoft Word was about the only game in town. The lab was packed and they were all anxiously willing to give this technology thing a go. I will never forget that, or their joy when they figured out how to do something. 

The point is that many older folks can and are willing to learn if someone will be patient enough to help them learn or point them in the right direction. Employers will do well to remember that taking advantage of organizational, industry and/or field experience and knowledge can be powerful. In fact, those who are willing to learn, may be willing to teach though they may have to be coached on how to coach.

I think there could be amazing opportunities for employers with far-reaching and entrepreneurial perspectives of how to improve the work they do and how they do it. It won't be just benefits they'll have to think about adjusting, but how they recruit, hire, onboard, train, retrain, and provide opportunities for growth and transition. Each generation could use a little insight into what seems to be most important to that generation, but we have to be wary of too many generalizations because those just get us into trouble. Like suggesting that people over 65 aren't equipped to use technology or can't adjust to change. Huh.

As for me, well, I like what I do. I could retire in several years, but I don't really see the point if I can continue to do what I do and do it well. Or until I win the lottery, which I rarely play, so it's a safe bet that won't be an option. Like so many, I believe I have more to offer and more to do. And I'm not yet done learning either and there are a few gazillion books I've yet to read. Which reminds me I have to go check on some other online courses and schedule time to finish my chatbot course.