Watching Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was a lot like going through menopause -- one minute I was delighted, the next I was depressed, and a few times I delved into a scene and forgot why I was there.
But there was something profoundly honest in the movie that touched my Baby Boomer soul.
I know what it's like to battle the feeling that my best years are behind me. I remember the days when a job interview just about ensured an offer, and the threat of leaving a current position immediately resulted in a new laptop or raise.
I remember when managers saw me as an "up and comer" and talked about me in the present tense. "Donna you are an excellent presenter," they'd say to my twenty-something self. "We should have you do more training."
Now I hear a lot of "Wow, Donna, you are a good presenter. Can you mentor me so I can replace you? Because it seems like you might be vacating a spot any day now."
Past his days of fame and glory, Michael Keaton's character, Riggan, wants to do something that matters. I get it.
Something happens to you when you hit 50+ -- your heart grows five times its normal size. You are less concerned about raises and more concerned about leaving a legacy. So you start searching for your heart's desire.
What nobody tells you is that doing what matters doesn't pay nearly as well as doing what's popular. "Do what you love, the money will follow," might be true for some, but there are actually things that matter which don't pay well at all. I think Mother Teresa would agree.
But we pursue our dreams anyway, because they are in our head whispering, "What will you leave behind? What is your legacy?"
When I was young, the word "legacy" was used only to describe a Subaru. Now I hear it on a daily basis. Baby Boomers are all about the legacy.
Or perhaps we change out of necessity. We have been pushed out by a younger professional whose salary will save the company $25,000 a year, or a merger brings in a new culture, and we're uncomfortable working on a ping-pong table.
Regardless of the reason for leaving, we pursue our dreams with the same intensity we applied to our jobs. We attend seminars and learn how to blog. We become certified coaches and teachers and consultants.
I've done it all in search of my elusive legacy.
I meditate on my search for meaning, while my big, dark ego walks behind me, growling, Remember when you were the one in the corner office? Remember when people pursued you for positions rather than telling you they never received the resume you hand-delivered? Remember when your kids introduced you to their friends with pride rather than disclaimers? Remember?"
I know that I don't want to go back. I could not be a young mother again, feeling guilty every time I walked out the door and cleaning up vomit at 3:00 a.m. after a dinner of Beefaroni.
I don't miss obsessively worrying about my make-up. I no longer care that my lipstick is slowly snaking its way to the bottom of my nose through little rivulets of wrinkles. I'm just thankful for the added color.
I don't want to go back -- I just want to be able to prove I was once there.
As Baby Boomers our yardstick was always position and salary. We were the original workaholics, sacrificing too much for our jobs. Building egos was our Red Bull, and it's hard to give up that addiction and do something that matters.
I am working towards my meaningful life while silently waiting for my meaning to turn into something I can spend at Pottery Barn.
Don't worry; it's not that I'm afraid I can't have more glory days. I believe that we can do whatever we want to do. I think it's just that a battle between ego and soul is taking Baby Boomers by our corporate lapels and shaking the ego out of us.
On my fearful days, I sit in front of the mirror and plan all of my plastic surgeries. What I have discovered is that plastic surgery is a lot like fixing up an old house. If I fix my face then my neck will look too old. If the distance between my neck and my breasts spans a football field, then I have to lift my breasts, though once I lift my breasts my hands will give me away, and while I'm sure there's enough fat in my ass to take care of all my wrinkles, I'm just not up for it.
I realize that the ego is exhausting, because time can't be turned back. No matter how badly we want to, we can't pull our skin so tight that it transports us to 1990.
Instead, maybe we just take the leap and do something that matters. Make the world a better place. Downsize our homes and upgrade our impact.
I think I'll try that one and see how it goes. And as for those Baby Boomers who have none of these issues and feel nothing but youthful exuberance, I offer a slow clap. Slow, because I'm not sure I believe you.
The most youthful thing we can do is take a risk. Make the leap. Let go of the pillar built of ego and watch ourselves fly.
And if we can no longer shop at Pottery Barn, so be it.
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