For years, the generation born after World War II was dismissed as being all about “drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll.” Later, they called us the “Me Generation.” Really? Were baby boomers ever that simple? That self-absorbed? Or were those one-size-fits-all hooks just an easy way for the media machine to characterize our superabundant and astonishingly complex peer group?
If we boomers were ever that simple, we’re not now.
By the time we reach 60, each of us has come face to face with disappointment, failure and pain. In spite of the inevitable rough patches, however, we have also had, and are still having, good times: splendid, sometimes unexpected, often hard-earned and long-awaited, good times.
And we’ve developed a wealth of strategies for creating, discovering, regaining and giving happiness. The premise of The 60 Smiles Project, which I founded, is that these strategies are worth sharing.
It Began With Turning 60
The 60 Smiles Project collects boomer wisdom about how to be happy. It began when my friends started turning 60. Since I like to give old-school (paper and ink) books as birthday presents, I went looking for volumes that would be amusingly relevant to people facing this daunting birthday.
Relevant, I found; amusing, not so much.
I encountered plenty of practical books about retirement, estate planning, long-term health care — useful, but not exactly festive. And there was a gusher of nostalgia about the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but I didn’t want to give books celebrating who we were then. I wanted to give gifts celebrating who we are now.
So I decided to create my own book, one that gathered up our collective wisdom about how to connect with joy. Before long, the idea morphed into a website: The 60 Smiles Project. Since the project is in its infancy, I suppose the folks below might be described as pioneers. Here are a few excerpts from early participants:
Wendy — retired literary consultant
Living on the Road
… My husband and I sold the house and most of the contents, bought the RV and set out down the road. It didn’t take long to find out about the large subculture of folks who live full-time on the road, volunteering from park to park across the country …
Mario — musician
Queens, New York
… Every day you have the opportunity to choose how you’re going to go from here forward. You can either carry the baggage of your past with you, or you can stop, reconcile that as best you can — you may not have the skills to do it and may need someone to help you — and then move forward …
Alison — Senior Vice President, head of a global corporation’s oncology business unit
… It’s probably helped that I was raised in a household with no men. I’m not sure it ever occurred to me that men were supposed to have all the important positions …
Ron – traveling artist
… In our world, a “job well done” means getting everything ready in advance so that the show goes smoothly and seamlessly. Minimize running to the Home Depot for that forgotten extension cord. The show goes on and you’ve got to be ready …
Visit The 60 Smiles Project to see the rest of what Wendy, Mario, Alison and Ron have to say, to meet other participants and to put in your own two cents.
Creating Our Legacy
Let people 100 years from now look back and say: “Those boomers had great smiles!”
Some of us served in Vietnam, some of us protested against the war. Some of us fought for civil rights, some of us stayed far from the action. Some women were raised to marry good providers, then lived through a culture shift that called for them to be their own good providers. And that’s just in this country.
The baby boom was a global phenomenon. Around the world, soldiers returned from World War II and started families. I’m certain boomers outside the U.S. have some thoughts about how to be happy. Are you there, France? Japan? Britain? Africa?
In the end, maybe it’s best to look at The 60 Smiles Project as a collection of informed advice about how to live well.
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