If we made a mistake, we could be banished forever from the middle class or lose our shot at getting into it. The latter had been created by the post-World War II economy.
Then there was the College Phenomenon. Even in grade school, we were told that everything we did would be factored into being admitted into a college. We were the first generation in American history to be able to attend college en masse.
Until The Pill became commonplace, both females and males lived in terror of a pregnancy. That would ruin the lives of both sexes. As well as their shamed families.
No surprise, we would also turn out to be The Therapy Generation. You bet, a total emotional mess.
Fortunately, Alfred E. Neuman was invented. Mascot for Mad Magazine, his signature was "What, Me Worry." He brought the message of salvation: It was possible to just relax, and not worry. Possible. But not probable.
After all, Neuman, obviously, had not earned any degrees in higher education. He was not on his way to partnership in a Wall Street law firm. And, come on, what all-American cheerleader type would marry him.
Yes, Neuman remained our generation's anti-hero. But we didn't accept the gospel of not worrying. A sign of the times, Dale Carnegie introductory courses on public speaking had modules on how to stop worrying. One takeaway was to divide our worry-dominated lives into day-tight compartments. Surely, we could manage what occurred in those 24-hours. Incidentally, 12-step programs advocated the same anxiety-reducer.
So, here we Baby Boomers are today. Likely we are still worried. If we continue to work, the focus on our worry is to outfox age bias. If we decide we are done and stop working, we worry about running out of money before years on planet earth. Also, throw in worry about Type 2 diabetes. Thanks to the television commercials during prime time, we know Type 2 can also affect our hearts.
Shame on me. At one of my support groups (I embrace plenty of those since I can no longer afford one-on-one therapy) I gave advice to a well-put-together Millennial that she should be worrying more about The Future. I confided that shame to my hair-stylist. Since she's not a Baby Boomer she was puzzled why I passed on that unsolicited mentoring. No, I am not going back to that particular group.
Are there any of us who did break free and embrace Neuman's world view?
Yes. A former close friend from college (you bet, I did all the right things to get in and be awarded a scholarship) got on the other side of being consumed with angst. Relief came through adversity. Her husband had lost his license to practice law. She was suing her therapist. And, she had been sued by that therapist and settled. She uttered the 21st century version of What, Me Worry. It was "I don't give a s___t."
BTW, when I could still afford the high co-pay for therapy, the cognitive behavior counselor gave me the very same advice - and mantra.
Reflection: Will anything lift the Baby Boomer existential and real-world angst?
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