All posts tagged #midlife

“At 57, I Don’t Lean In”

“Congratulations,” Sheryl Sandberg said with a smile as broad as the years that separate our generations when I told her that at 57, I’d recently gone back to a corporate job. “At this stage, I’m standing up—not leaning in,” I continued. This statement did not generate another high-five from the Facebook COO and author of Lean In, a new working woman’s manifesto for success.

Glancing at my business card, Sandberg said, “I’ll find out who you can talk to about Lean In Circles at your company,” before turning to greet another BlogHer ’13 attendee in the crowded Skyline Ballroom in Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.

A corporate layoff in 2006 interrupted my 30-year marketing career. When I returned to corporate life after six years of teaching and writing, I knew my future called for a new outlook. I had been the prototypical MBA-owning, globe-trotting, leaning in career girl in my twenties, thirties and forties. Now, I’m a fifty-something woman standing up for the pursuit of personal satisfaction and enjoyment on the job and for living every day as if I’m worth it, because I am.

* At 57, I don’t lean in at work because I don’t feel the need to prove myself anymore. I believe in myself and know that I will deliver value.

* I don’t lean in because I already take a seat at the table. I speak up when needed and not just to be heard.

* I work for satisfaction in a job well done and the personal growth that comes from that, not to position myself for the next big move.

* I’m standing up at work rather than leaning in because I know the importance of a meaningful job. It requires my energy, but it’s just a part of my life, not the whole.

* I’m past worrying whether everyone likes me. I’m not sure I like everyone anyway. But I can figure out how to work with them, and that’s what counts.

* I want to see what’s around and ahead of me, and you can’t do that when your nose is leaned-in to a corporate playbook. I will travel the rest of my life gazing at serendipitous experiences outside those pages.

* I still haven’t heard from anyone in Sheryl’s office about the Lean In Circles at my company. It’s unfortunate that she missed the true significance of going corporate again at 57. There is meaning to be found, purpose to be had, and passion to be explored.

My generation must stand up and be counted. We are in vigorous pursuit of the ultimate goal—a life well lived.

Photo:
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., center, poses with students for photographs after her speech at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea
Photo: Woohae Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on LifeReimagined.arrp.og
Life Reimagined AARP “At 57 I Don’ Lean In

The Walker Was Waiting For Me

Walker Husband’s request was simple enough but it put me on guard.

“I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to answer rationally and not emotionally.”

Did he want my opinion on buying another ukulele to keep the one that he bought on vacation company? Was he at Coscto debating a super deal on a big screen TV? Or did he want me to meet him at the local car dealer to test drive a convertible?

“Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m at the little resale shop around the corner,” he answered.

The resale shop. That’s not an odd place for him to be. But it is odd for him to call and ask about buying something there.

“They have a used walker for $10. Do you think it would be a good idea for you to have, just in case?”

Silence on my end.

Husband was asking a perfectly reasonable question that could push me right into irrationality, or at least into being overly emotional. He’s calling to see if I want a walker because in one week I’m having foot surgery on both feet.  Surgery on three hammertoes and one bunion per foot. Surgery that requires ten days of being completely off my feet except for slowly making my way to the bathroom and back to bed, to couch, or to chair. Surgery that results in an 8-week recuperation period where my mobility will be immobilized to a degree that I can’t fathom.

He was asking a perfectly reasonable question and I needed to call on my left brain when forming a response not my right brain, which was screaming: “A walker. What? I’m too young too need a walker. This surgery won’t stop me. Oh, I’m turning into my mother, father, someone other than me.”

“What’s it like?” I asked.

“It’s small, silver and has tennis balls on one end.”

“Will it move over carpet?” The path from bed to bath is carpeted and if the walker was going to be useful it had to be an all-surface walker.

“I think so.”

Continued silence on my end.

“All right I won’t buy it. Your silence says it all,” Husband said.

“No. I don’t know. Do whatever you want.” I was still in denial and couldn’t be responsible for the decision.

“We’ll donate it right back when you don’t need it anymore,” Husband said.

“Fine.” I hung up. He was right. It might help. For $10 it couldn’t hurt.

Husband came home with an upscale version of the model he had described over the phone. This walker had wheels instead of tennis balls and it was still just $10.

I took it for a spin over the carpet. It worked perfectly. I imagined myself gliding through the dark of the night to the bathroom, my way illuminated by a small flashlight I could attach to the front bar. Add a backpack and I could roam from room to room ready for anything. Dress it up with a flag and some streamers and I’d be ready for the local Fourth of July parade.

“The walker was a good idea,” I conceded to Husband.

“I thought so. I promised I’d take care of you,” he replied.

And so he did. And so will Wendy, the name I’ve given to my new wheels. With Wendy and Husband by my side, my walking will be smooth. Or at least more manageable.

Smile and Say Thank You

ESD-New-Orleans copy

Mom didn’t teach me to cook. I wasn’t much interested and I don’t think she was either. She tried to teach me to sew but when she insisted that to be a good seamstress one had to learn how to rip out and redo the seam I decided I didn’t have the patience. She did teach me penmanship with limited success. I may have looked just like her but I scribbled like Dad.

She did tell me that the best thing to say when someone offers a complement is a sincere and simple “thank you.” I had/have a tendency to defer the compliment, deny the reason why it was given, or deliver a full history of how whatever is being complimented came about.

Most of the lessons I learned from my mother were delivered silently as I watched her go about her day, which included saying the rosary at 4:30 every afternoon. The lessons I learned from my mother were delivered when I watched her laugh until she snorted when her sister visited and coo endlessly at my baby brother after his bath. The lessons I learned from my mother were about living with caution because you might get hurt and how unexpressed grief manifests itself.

My mother’s first husband died in the aftermath of the D-Day invasion. One night when I was 9-years old, my father took me into the living room after dinner to have a talk. I knew I hadn’t done anything particularly bad that day and was excited to see what Dad wanted to share with only me. He sat on an ottoman across from me in the big armchair in the corner of the room. My saddle-shoed feet stuck straight out.

There he told me that my mother had been married once before. That her first husband had died in the war. That my oldest brother was from that marriage. That my Dad had adopted my oldest brother. That we did not consider my oldest brother to be a half brother. He was a full brother.

Years later it struck me that Mom didn’t tell me this news. Or that Mom and Dad didn’t tell me. It was her news, her life. Mom wouldn’t talk about the man she married at 24, who died less than two years after their marriage. She once said that her parents told her she was lucky. She might have lost a husband but she had a good job, a wonderful son, and family to help her. She learned to keep her grief to herself and adjust to her situation.

The main lesson I learned from my Mom wasn’t directly imparted to me. The lesson I learned was to be in control of the narrative of my life. If I hurt, hurt. If I love, love. And if I have to laugh, laugh until I snort.

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And the Transition Goes On

Walking old/newpath

“Why don’t you just say it, you’re retired,” a male friend said after my layoff that produced an unemployment check and a Cobra health insured life.

“I’m not retired,” I insisted. “I’m in transition.”

At lunch with a working friend from the good old days of full employment and a certain path I shared the nascent beginning of my blog.

“I’m writing about women in transition.”

“You’re always in transition,” my male lunch partner said.

He was right. Whether in a job or not, I have always felt in transition. I prefer to think this makes me an expert on the topic rather than someone who always looks for the next patch of greener grass.

When I told my sister about the potential job offer she asked, “Aren’t you enjoying your semi-retirement state?”

Semi-retirement? Is that what my life looked like to the outside? It didn’t’ feel like that inside.

The five years that I didn’t report to an office, I still worked. Not at a corporate office doing the same thing. But I worked. From a home office or at a borrowed desk. At various things. Consulting projects. Committees. Content development. And mostly teaching.

Two hundred students–give or take a few–have sat in my classes and been mentored over coffee and during office hours. Teaching has been the hardest work I’ve ever done. By myself. In front of a room of young adults hoping to advance their careers with the material they are learning in my class. Finding new ways to fill the hours, to bring the principles and theories alive. A three-hour, one-woman show running for 10 weeks straight. Each week required a new script and the ability to improvise.

“I never want to retire,” I tell Husband, who is on the brink of retirement. Teetering so close to being able to nap at will on any one of our couches. To putter in any number of puttering spaces in the house, garage, or outside. To being able to do something else as soon as he discovers or defines else. To being in transition.

Retiring sounds old. And I reject being old, while fully acknowledging being older. So I’m rejecting retirement and accepting rehiring into a new role in a familiar field. Or as I prefer to look at it, I’m just entering one more transitional phase in my life of transition.

Fashion Faux Pas or Face Plant?

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Coming of age in the 70s I was more than a fashion faux pas, I was a fashion face plant. Nothing can explain away the dress I wore to the junior prom. I looked like a picnic tablecloth on the bottom with a matching place mat on top. Since I can’t find the picture, which I know I saved, you’ll have to use your imagination.

Large red and white checked gingham fabric. Long skirt accented with a ruffle. Halter-top attached to the skirt, also accented with a ruffle. Straps crisscrossed in the back and buttoned into the top of the skirt. My father made me dance around the living room to make sure nothing fell out of the square piece of material over my chest. Since my chest amounted to nothing at the time, I was safe.

Ruffles play a major role in my best wardrobe worsts. My early choices for formal dances at college all had ruffles on the bottom and unfortunately a few had gathered sleeves with ruffled edges. And there was the ruffled yellow dotted swiss bridesmaid’s dress accessorized with a matching floppy hat. Of course that was chosen for me and truth be told, the whole time I wore that dress I squelched the urge to cry out, paraphrasing Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, “I’ll never go dotted swiss or ruffles again.”

Of course it took a whole new decade and career before I found my ruffle replacement. Half the fun of going to work in the mid-‘80s–for me¬–was wearing the businesswoman’s bow tie. Floppy or stiff. Bright red, blue or black. It didn’t matter. I simply liked the ritual of tying it. And it announced my competence without me saying a word.

I first learned about power dressing from The Women’s Dress for Success book written by John T. Malloy. His advice to women hoping to be taken seriously by others (men) in the workplace: look like those others (men) as much as possible. My closet was full of men’s styled dark colored suits that I wore with white, blue, or an occasional pink shirt, when I felt rebellious, and a bow tie. Simple jewelry, gold or silver stud earrings and maybe a pearl necklace rounded out the corporate career gal’s look.

I took all of Mr. Malloy’s advice and added my own twist. Looking at my first-day-on-the-new-job picture I wish I had applied Coco Chanel’s advice: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” I wore a dark gray pinstripe suit with modest shoulder pads and a light blue wing-collared shirt with pleated front. A bow tie in the same color as the shirt flopped under my wing collar more than it stood at attention. A necklace of alternating silver and lapis-colored beads lay under my tie. Thank goodness I just wore matching silver studs.

In the 90s my bow ties and starched shirts gave way to flowing scarves and silky blouses. Then I went casual, business casual and then work from home casual. Today the most flounce in my wardrobe is found in the pashmina-style scarves warming my neck in overly air conditioned and under-heated environments. I am aware of the return of the bow blouse to the workingwoman’s closet but have resisted. Much as I have resisted anything in red and white checks. Neither bows nor gingham fit my style anymore.

What Kind of Blogger Am I?

WhatKindOfBloggerAreYou1

According to a study of blogging styles and attitudes conducted by Zemanta, a content suggestion engine (according to Wikipedia), I’m a Life Stager/Hedonist/Life Improver. Translation: I write about How to Enjoy and Survive Midlife With A Smile on Your Face, or My Face, as the case may be.

If that sounds like a mish mash of styles and attitudes, it is. According to the study, I’m not alone in exhibiting more than one blogging persona. And that, my blogging friends, is comforting to know for a couple reasons.

I’m forever being asked what my blog is about. I’m forever finding myself searching for a one-word answer because people like one-word answers that quickly categorize who you are, and because I teach marketing. I tell my students that an effective brand positioning statement is consumer-centric and singular in its promise. It is the rare branding success that offers two benefits in one drink. (Miller Lite’s Great Taste…Less Filling!) So if my blog is a brand or a product, it should offer something singular. Something it can own.

Here are some of the words I’ve tried on their own: Transition, Humor, and Midlife. But they don’t work on their own. Transition from what? What’s funny? And midlife, what does that mean? Midlife is about as broad in definition as Middle Class. Far as I can tell, Midlife means you’re not wearing diapers.

However, I also teach my students that a target audience or consumer can’t be defined narrowly by demographics. A brand’s consumer is more nuanced than a woman between the ages of 45-55. My students learn how to develop consumer personas, which include a demographic description along with information on attitudes, goals, lifestyle, and behaviors related to the product.

The Zemanta study highlights, for me, that while a blog has a brand identity, it also has a persona attached to it. Maybe I have difficulty describing my blog in one word because I can’t define myself with one word. Maybe I’ve just rationalized why I shouldn’t even worry about coming up with the one word. Maybe I should just focus on the one thing that differentiates me from the rest of the midlife bloggers talking about the midlife journey with a touch of humor. Right now the only answer – and it is one word or two, depending upon how I express it, is: Me. or Julie Danis. Only I can own that.

Rites of Passage: Mid-Life Marriage

Bride & Groom _NEW

It was a normal blind date at a nice restaurant, when the banker asked me some getting-to-know-you questions.
“Are you originally from Chicago?”
“Where do you work?” And,
“Why aren’t you married?”

Why aren’t you married? That’s the number one question on a single woman’s hit list. Running close, in second place is: “Why isn’t a woman like you married?” The latter moves to first place if any of the following adjectives modify woman: smart, pretty, wonderful. Why isn’t a wonderful woman like you married? Those positive adjectives only underscore the absurdity of the situation. You’re such a catch but still at sea.

Over the course of my extensive singlehood, I collected an arsenal of retorts to questions about my single status:
“Because you haven’t introduced me to him yet.”
“I haven’t found a man that makes me want to share my closets.”
“My husband is still married to his first wife.” And,
“I haven’t met the right person.”

Past dates have also identified reasons for my long-tenured singledom. I’ve been told:
“You’re too independent.”
“You’re not vulnerable enough.” And,
“You’re ovaries are too old.”

Okay, the guy didn’t actually say that to me. But he implied it. He asked, on the first date in a nice restaurant after finding out where I was from and where I worked, “Do you want to have children?”
“Sure, but I want to be married first. Anyway, I have plenty of time.”
“You’re over 30, I wouldn’t be too sure,” he said, and then told the manicurist who had fixed us up his real assessment. He felt I was too old to have babies. Had filed me under reproductively undesirable. He wanted a younger, more sure thing mother for his children.

I married when I was 48 years old for the first time, to someone I had known, on and off, for 12 years. Being so used to the “why aren’t you married” question I was caught off guard when, post-wedding a twice-divorced college friend of mine asked: “Why did you get married at this point in your life?”

I didn’t have a quick answer to this two-part question. Why get married, period? Why get married when you’re past child bearing and rearing age and all the benefits of a relationship can be had without marriage? Why? Why not?
“I married for love and adventure,” I answered.

Marriage was one of life’s great adventures that I had never experienced. Not even pretend experienced. I had never lived with a man before I married. I’m not even sure a man ever stored a toothbrush or razor at my apartment before I married. Not that I’m against co-habitation before marriage, but merging without a contractual commitment never made sense to me, especially as I got older and bought and decorated and redecorated my space in my way. I liked my space. I liked the way I cluttered my space. Control is my friend. Why would I give it up without a license?

Man-Who-Would-Become-Husband, and I met on a blind date in June, when I was 36 and he was a 48-year-old, divorced, father of a college-age daughter. I wanted children and wondered if he wanted more. I broached the subject while kissing on my couch one night.
“Do you like children?”
“Of course, I have a daughter.”
“I mean would you have any more?”
“I could but…”
“You could, good.”
“Isn’t it a bit early to be talking about babies?”

Yes, it was. We dated maybe six times over the course of that summer, and the relationship faded as summer did. His impression lingered though. In a journal entry on the following New Year’s Eve I summed up each date of the last twelve months with three words. Except for Man-Who-Would-Become-Husband, he rated four: “handsome, intelligent, good cook.”

Fast-forward eight years to a charity art auction. A small event, maybe 75 people. Hoping to meet new people – men – a girlfriend and I dressed up in leather skirts and boots and headed off to an up-and-coming but not-quite-there-yet Chicago neighborhood.
“Oh no,” I said as we walked in the room.
“What?”
“See that man over there.” I threw my head to the left and described Man-Who-Would-Become-Husband. “Tall, salt and pepper hair, blue eyes, blonde woman on his arm.”
“Yes…”
“I went out with him years ago and just never called him back.” I told my friend that he was the only man I had dated – if five dates constitutes dating, and in your 30s it just might –to whom I wished I had given more of a chance.
“But he was such a man,” I said, “and I was used to boys.” He told me jokes in German and knew about art past the Impressionists. We danced in Greek restaurants, on his deck, and in my den. But I let him go.

That night I bought a piece of art that I didn’t even like just to spend time talking to him at the auction table. I made sure he had my telephone number and the following week we went to dinner where he did not ask, “Why aren’t you married?” I learned that he had just started seeing someone in London and I told him about a budding relationship of mine in Wales.

For the next two years we casually went out to dinner when we were both in town. His cross-Atlantic relationship ended before mine. For a year, he patiently listened to me agonize over whether or not I should marry the man from Wales. Then one night on our way home from dinner, as he placed me in a cab, he said:
“I’ll dance at your wedding if you marry this guy, but if you don’t, I think we could have something here.”

The walk down the aisle didn’t come right away. My need for control and doing things my way tested and retested our relationship. I insisted we stop at the edge of the crosswalk; he insisted on standing a foot back from the curb. I needed to know the exact directions to a location, and follow them. He expressed a boyish delight in the serendipity of getting lost and then found.

But nothing was more irritating to him than my popcorn rule. I insisted on my own small, no butter popcorn on movie dates. He was perplexed and mildly put off. It was as if I had committed Dating Crime #1. If I couldn’t share something as inconsequential as popcorn could I share the New York Times Magazine? The last squeeze of toothpaste? The final drop of milk?

In my defense, I was used to buying my own movie ticket, my own diet soda and especially my own popcorn. I’m not selfish. I just like to ration my popcorn so it lasts through the first half hour of the movie. Most people I know finish their popcorn before the seventh preview. If I share I can’t control the pace and therefore, my satisfaction.
On one typical movie date night, after we found seats in the front row behind the break in seats, he went to the refreshment stand.
“A small, no butter popcorn and medium Diet Coke for me, please,” I ordered.

He returned with two popcorns, as I had hoped. One child’s size, no butter for him and the jumbo tub of popcorn, no butter for me. Jumbo, as in big-enough-to-feed-the-rest-of-the-audience-please-take-some-as-you-walk-by-popcorn. Jumbo, as in see-how-ridiculous-it-is-to-insist-on-your-own-popcorn-when-you’re-in-an-intimate-relationship-with-someone-popcorn. I got the message as well as everyone else in the movie theater.

So on the next movie outing, in a spirit of compromise and in an effort to see if I could live outside my control zone, I agreed to share a medium, no butter popcorn. Sharing that first bag of popcorn was as stressful as I had imagined. His big hand, which never seemed big before, opened and closed like one of those claws in the arcade game that tries to grab a stuffed animal or plastic encased prize but never does. He grabbed a gross of kernels and started eating. His fist moved from bag to mouth, bag to mouth. I watched him eat and slowly put one, two, maybe three kernels in my mouth hoping that he would see this as behavior he should adopt.

Bits of popcorn decorated his sweater. Staring at me. Daring me to leave them alone. Popcorn shrapnel trailed from the bag to my jeans, to his jeans, and beyond. I cleaned up after him, off of him and off of me. If we were going to make it as a couple I needed to take control in a non-controlling way. I spread a napkin over my lap and created a little bowl-like shape. I poured a large amount of popcorn out of the bag into my makeshift receptacle and handed it back to him.

“It’s all yours,” I said and proceeded to eat by the 1s, 2s and 3s. He didn’t drop as much popcorn on our laps. I got my fair share and munched happily 30 minutes into the movie. I turned to him and said,
“You know, this could work.”

A couple more years and a few more adjustments to coupledom passed before we married. Bit by bit my singledom behavior and habitat have changed: I surrendered half my closet space. I eat real meals for dinner instead of just grazing on pretzels, yogurt, and Diet Coke. I’ve relinquished control over the remote control and sometimes watch the Military Channel, car auctions, and the German news. Some things will never change…my night owl will never understand his morning lark (and vice versa), driving directionless still frustrates me, and I get antsy standing behind a gaggle of pedestrians at a crosswalk.

There is one change that I didn’t make from my single days. My name. This doesn’t bother Husband. “It’s a sign of the times,” he says. “My first wife won’t give up my name, and my second wife won’t take it.” As I see it, there are only so many changes that could be accommodated in my middle age marriage.

Boomer Women: Listen to Your Elders

Boomer women the atlantic

I always enjoyed sitting like a mouse in the corner of the room when my great aunt, aunt, or grandma came to visit. My little ears learned big lessons about just about any topic from those who had come way before me. A recent article in The Atlantic reminded me to listen to my elders for advice on how to navigate the mid-life transition I’m facing today. Bottom line: Accept the age you are, rethink retirement, and immerse yourself in community. I’m all ears for this advice. (Photo courtesy of The Atlantic and the AP)

jmd jr year crop

1. Do not have that first cigarette. Not even that first puff. You have an addictive personality and it will take years and I mean years for you to quit. Smoking does not make you look sophisticated, attract the opposite sex (quite the contrary), make you skinny (although it does speed up your metabolism), or help you study. Smoking does age your skin, stain your teeth, char your lungs, and foul your breath, hair, and clothes.  Don’t start now. Please.

2. Too much self-deprecation is self-defeating. The right amount of taking yourself lightly is a form of taking care of yourself. That’s okay.

3 . Don’t do gaucho or capri pants. You’re too short. Don’t do big belts. You’re too short-waisted. Don’t get a layered haircut. You’re not meant to wear a shag. Painter’s paints are for painters, not coeds. Bandanas are not a good look, especially the one with three gold coins in the front. Really.

4. Don’t want everyone to like you. That’s exhausting. As exhausting as it would be to be friends with everyone. Be yourself and be friends with those who like that self.

5. Stop assuming people don’t want you to join their group. In fact, assume the opposite and you’ll find more open doors than you think.

6. Offer an opinion. Take a stand. Sitting on the fence may give you a good view but knowing what you believe puts you into the action. And you love action. Remember what your professors write on your papers: “The conclusion could use a little more of you in it. What do you recommend?”

7. Ask questions. In class. During office hours. While studying. While playing. If you don’t understand something you can be sure someone else is clueless too. Ask questions. You will be thanked.

8. Take an art history class. An economics course. Maybe even debate. Learn to play tennis and bridge. Develop an exercise habit.

9. Learn how to be friends with boys. They are more than just potential dates. They may seem like foreign beings, and maybe they are, but they feel the same way about you. It’s good to have friends of both sexes. So offer your friendship

10. You’re too young for could of, would of, should of. Stick with can, will, did. They move you forward which is the only place you have to go.

11. Don’t always look for permission first. Life isn’t a Catholic grade school.

12. Don’t forget the ones you left behind. Let Mom and Dad in on your new life. Remember your little brother. Reach out to your older sister and brothers too.

13. Watch the alcohol habit. Beer is fattening. Jim Beam and 7-Up is sweet and stiff, and champagne has always been a problem. CRM, champagne related incidents, may make good stories, but they don’t reflect well on your reputation.

14. Seek guidance and career counseling. Figure out how your interest in drama translates to another field. Be willing to consider doing something no one else you know is doing, like joining the Peace Corps

15. Learn to develop your own inner cheerleader. Getting support is like love. Before you can give it to someone else, you need to give it to yourself.

16. Don’t skip class, don’t oversleep and miss class, don’t fall asleep in class. Class is good. That’s why you are on campus. Attend class.

17. Smile more. People think you’re standoffish or mean.

18. Beware of M&Ms. Once you quit smoking they will become your next best worst friend.

19. Be more mindful of your finances. Now’s the time to learn to budget

20. Enjoy. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, stop doing it and take a minute (or more) to reflect on why you’re not enjoying it. There may be very good reasons for tears and fears. So cry and worry, and then call up your inner cheerleader and go on. Because that’s the only thing you can do. You have always wanted to go on to the next thing. It’s waiting for you. Go.

FOMO: Affliction or Lust for Life?

FOMO

I am one of the Older Persons in the room. We are surrounded by Youthful Twentysomethings for a panel discussion on their latest obsession — FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out.

FOMO is quite different from FONBATR, the Fear of Never Being Able to Retire, which is an affliction many of the 50-plus-year-olds attending this ideas festival/policy-wonk conference are experiencing. But I digress.

Technology has brought FOMO upon the under-25 generation, MIT professor Sherry Turkle argues in her book Alone Together: “Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere.” John Grohol, PsyD, puts it plainly it in his blog PsychCentral: FOMO is “the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what we’re currently doing.”

I have joined these youngsters at this panel because I’m curious about how this generation lives, thinks and dreams. I also believe that one of the best ways to stay relevant as I grow older, which I want to do, is to build intergenerational bridges.

The twenty-something panelists describe a FOMO lifestyle to the audience. Party surfing versus hanging out with one crowd for an evening. College and high school students gorging on after-school activities. Career-hopping and hopping and hopping. The more choices available, the more FOMO.

As they share, my mind strays to my own personal version of FOMO, which drives me to distraction, or at least to not knowing what to do now, next or never. Should I write a blog post before I pin a picture on Pinterest? Submit an essay to a publication? Catch up on the latest marketing trend so I can teach it later? Follow the presidential campaign, search for agents or go to the gym?

Just as I’m ready to move mentally from FOMO to FOMU (Fear of Messing Up), a young female breaks into my consciousness:

“Do people your age suffer from FOMO?” she asks the older audience members.

My hand shoots up, pumping as if I were in a classroom of 5-year-olds: Me, me, call on me!

Before I can start talking, a booming male voice offers: “That would be FOHMO — Fear of Having Missed Out.”

“Wait a minute!” I respond. “I still have FOMO, the original kind. There’s plenty left for me to experience. I haven’t missed out on life. I’ve had FOMO all my life. I was the kid who never came in from playing outside because I didn’t want to miss anything,” I tell the group.

I don’t tell them that my youthful FOMO often led to near-accidents outside my back door because I refused to leave the party, game of hide and seek or Foursquare match even if I really had to go to the bathroom. What if I missed a really great girlfriend secret, thrill-ride skating behind someone’s bicycle or a sighting of my latest crush? Biology be damned, I’d always wait until it was almost too late.

“Perhaps,” I suggest, “the FOMO in our youth has led to the creation of bucket lists in our middle age.”

“I don’t like bucket lists,” another like-aged woman says. “They sound so negative.” And I have to agree with her. Bucket. Dirty plastic. Dented and rusted metal. “Kicked the bucket” equals dead. “Bucket list” suggests decline. I may be on the declining side of life, but so far the ride down has been pretty exhilarating, and I plan on keeping that outlook.

Sure, there are things I want to do before I die, but if I don’t get to them, it won’t bother me. I’ll be dead. On my deathbed (I hope I’ll be in a castle in Europe or a treehouse in Tahiti ) I doubt I’ll be worrying that I missed traveling to all seven continents because Antarctica was just too cold and slipping through penguin poop to get to the penguins discouraged me. Nor can I imagine that I’ll bemoan the fact that I wasn’t on TV à la Katie or Oprah, because I’m sure I’ll be able to see that I had some influence on people around me, and isn’t that the essence of being Oprah or Katie?

Crossing things off lists can be depressing, too. Done that, and now what? What happens when the bucket list gets down to one or two things to go? Am I over when the list is crumpled and thrown in the bucket? Bucket lists. Who needs them? Not me.

Goals, desires, passions — that’s what I need and have. Write. Build and maintain relationships. Share. Learn. Love. Each of these items can be expanded and detailed. With a bucket list, if I’m successful, I’m left with an empty list and a full bucket. But by stating broader goals I’m left with an expansive, never-ending opportunity to do, to experience, to live. Uh-oh, I think I’ve just described my life in terms of an ultimate FOMO. Oh well, better than FOMTB — Fear of Missing the Bucket.

Originally seen on the Huffington Post

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