The Idealist

What do you think happens when idealists get to be elders? I don’t mean ‘el-der-ly’. I mean elders.

One of the ways we define humans is by age group. And as our society changes, we seem to modify the profiles around these age groups. Time is such a trickster. I remember when I was in my forties. I don’t think I felt middle aged.  As a matter of fact, I was just hitting my stride!

A different version of me

As I round the corner of each age group, I’ve become a different version of me. Age has a way of helping to shed skin – literally and figuratively.  I’ve learned to see this is as an opportunity. I can discard the layer no longer serving me. I can lighten the load and step into another chapter as clean and as free of baggage as I can.

I have no idea what happens when we rocket off of this planet. But it makes me feel alive to keep lightening the load.

I’ve found it is less about where I’m going and more about the climb it’s taking to get there.

Hey Boomer!

My generation is the Boomer generation. We’re a big population. I wonder if our big numbers is the reason that we’re so different and have some deep subcategories.

They say we’re known for rejecting traditional values. It was us that introduced the ‘counterculture’. But, we’re also known for being the wealthiest. As a result, we’re criticized for our excessive consumerism. That’s quite a spectrum of identification for one group of people.

Many think the Boomer generation is out of touch. “Okay, Boomer” is a popular phrase used lately.

I say, “Go sit down, Boomer” to those so rigid and hardened. This would be the group of Boomers I call the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ people. They have a tendency to believe they’re right and the youngbloods are all wrong.

Actually, that’s nothing new. It’s not uncommon to find an aging generation that thinks they did everything the right way. It’s a narrow lens they’re looking through, though.

Generation after generation have picked up the reins and moved us along to our next exploration. The landscape can become clearer by just using a wider lens. It’s all in how you look at the view!

It’s the ‘counterculture’, baby!

There’s a whole contingency of us Boomers, though, that still keep our fingers on life’s pulse. We are the ones who come from that subgroup called the “counterculture.”

Our group got a bad rap with many because of the copious amounts of sex, drugs and rock and roll we did back then. But along with our recklessness, we filled our backpacks with visions and dreams.

We hitchhiked our way around the country sharing our innovations and imaginations. And we had a loving nature. We held those visions and dreams close to our chests even when criticized.

Growing pains

The cool part is some of us didn’t let go of those ideals even as we got older. Our idealism was a part of us. We wore it on the outside. It was who we were. And, it is still who we are today! “Make love, not war!”

But our ideals were considered out of the norm. We were contrary to the establishment. Thankfully, we were blindly naïve. Change was needed and we dared push back at the status quo.

Ours was an era of growing pains! We jumped in the arena with wild abandon for worthy causes. In numbers, we gathered and were forces to be reckoned with. We were idealists! We were going to change the world!

Figuring it all out

The idea never entered my mind that I might fail.  If whatever I had planned went south, I’d figure something out. There was always another plan…a plan A, a plan B and so on. If this is a concept you clearly understand, you might already be working in ECC.  Or you should be. (We always have contingency plans on the fly!)

“People who wonder whether the glass is half empty or half full miss the point. The glass is refillable.” – Simon Sinek

The idealist is the person who always sees the glass as “refillable”.

In a couple of my early jobs the wives of the veterinarians had a big role in the practice. They were receptionist, nurse (all specialties, all disciplines), kennel people, bookkeeper and mother. Oh, and wife, too. Somewhere in there she managed to find time for herself. Not. They were cast iron. These women were my teachers.

Get ready, get set….

We were all so unsure of ourselves in our new emerging roles. These hard working women were trying to understand how and why someone would want to go to school to do what they were doing. In most cases, their husbands had taught them.

They had no idea where this new professional, this veterinary medical technician, was supposed to sit at the table. But, here we were…all pumped and excited. We were freshly graduated and raring to go.

Teachers like these can sometimes make you tuck your tail between your legs and run. And, some did. There were those that found these walls too high to climb.

But, some of us used these forerunners to instill even more grit and resilience.

And so the dance began. We had to find trust and safety with each other. And we had no roadmap.

Can they see what I see?

I tried to keep a low profile, just pay attention and do as I was told. My rebellious nature was all well and good but I needed a paycheck. And, I needed experience. But, fortified with my education, my eyes saw so much potential! I wanted to initiate it and be a part of it all.

I could see the need for pet loss support groups long before there was such a thing. People really had to hide their feelings for their pets back then. It was quite taboo to express your struggle with euthanasia and loss.

It’s just how it was

It was acceptable to shed a tear, but then you had to “get over it” fairly quickly. After all, it wasn’t like losing a child. It was “just a dog.” It was commonplace for friend or family to ask, “So, are you going to replace the dog?” Or, you’d be surprised by some well-meaning friend or relative who would bring over another puppy or kitten after your loss.

When families told me how sad they were, I knew what they meant.

It was our mutual trust that connected us. It was the sense of safety they felt with someone they thought would understand and not judge.

I loved my families and they loved me. I gave them permission to express their loss.

I’ve kept up with some former clients for over forty years. And, I’ve gone to their funerals.  I feel so honored to have had their trust.

Bring your honest self forward

Do you see our common threads? Your families see you as safe people too. Feel honored. Safety comes from feeling like you can share your ‘true’ self with someone and be accepted and not judged. YOU may be the only one in their life to give them permission to feel deeply about their loss.

If you show me your honest self, I will feel safe enough to bring my honest self to you. This is our shared humanity.

The bumpy road of idealists

Those of us that continue to carry our ideals with us decade after decade risk many disappointments. The world doesn’t move or evolve fast enough for us. It never has.

But, don’t count us out. We can be the folks that are lying awake at night envisioning a more efficient way of doing something. We’ve got our feet on the ground and our eyes on the horizon.

Contrary to many, change is something we embrace. We always see room for growth.

Yeah, I know it isn’t easy. Do it anyway!

If you see yourself in this group of people with eyes on the horizon you’re in good company. You have a different sense of awareness. You may get knocked down but you don’t stay there for any length of time. Idealists are people who see a different path. There may be times on that path where you get kicked in the pants. Sometimes you get ahead of yourself! But, that’s okay! I’m hoping that makes you want to dig in harder. I’m hoping you continue to come up with innovative ideas even if you get knocked sideways.

My idealism has always had me crave movement. Maybe that’s you too. You won’t find me living near still water. No serene ponds for me. I need to be near a brisk running river!

And, to you, young idealist, from an elder idealist, I say, “Let your freak flag fly!”