The series, Mad Men, struck an iconic chord for our generation because it depicted so well our halcyon days, when we were young and carefree, at the start of our lives. The men of our generation wore those narrow lapels, too, and I remember how we women attacked our bouffant hairdos with clouds of Aqua Net. Those characters were us and we were them. How easy and blissful it was to step into the Mad Men time machine for an hour each week.
Then, finally, it was time to say goodbye for good to the characters who reminded us of our younger selves. As the finale drew near I dreaded it, reluctant to see the show--and reminders of my youth--fade to black. But the writers didn't disappoint.
Virtually everyone got a happy ending that included personal fulfillment, and if you chose to interpret the finale that way, so did Don Draper. It isn't often that a series ends on a high note, but in the fantasy world of Mad Men, dreams did come true.
We love fairy tales. But they aren't reality. We aren't all going to be Joan, who hit a lucky break and had the financial security to start the business of her dreams. Some of us may never find true love, like Peggy. Second chances like the one Pete got don't happen often either.
I'm reminded of that as I watch so many in the leading edge of the Boomer generation reinvent themselves one more time, either out of necessity or because they're driven. Those of us who didn't cut a lucky break have been forced into reinvention by a wonky economy. But others of our generation are propelled to keep building bigger and better by the same achievement orientation that drove us when we were young.
We call it “making our dreams come true” and our mantra is George Eliot's “it's never too late to be what you might have been.”
I'd like to present another view.
There are dreams that will go unfulfilled for each of us, and that's ok, it really is. Time passes and we cycle through life, a time to every season. There was a time when the world opened to us and we to it. And then there is or will be a time for rest, a time when we stop climbing, straining, struggling and sit back to admire a life well-lived.
Some in our generation have trouble with this.
Retirement used to be something we looked forward to, a rest and respite from a long working life and from the rigors of raising a family. But some of us keep pushing on, long after our time has come—and gone. I'm not so sure that's always good thing.
Keith Haring had it right, I think, when he wrote in his Journals: I accept what I will never become or never have. I accept death and I accept life.
If we are to live with grace, at some point we must reach acceptance, that point where we're willing to take a breath and let the drive of our youth go. There will be a time when we are meant to relax on the porch with a dog at our feet and a book in our hand, and that's not such a bad thing.
When we see that time coming, I hope we can recognize it—and accept it—for what it is: simply another chapter in and a reward for a life well-lived and a new beginning.
What do you think?
Carol Cassara is a writer and ordained minister who believes in living fully in every color of the rainbow. Her essays have appeared in Skirt! magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, on public radio and other venues. After a long career as a corporate communications executive, she is enjoying having more time to write, travel and just enjoy life. When she's not traveling the world, she lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and crazy little maltipoo. Her daily blog inspirations for creating our best lives can be found at www.carolcassara.com.