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Sunday, March 16, 2008

What do you want to do when you grow up?

When Steve and I were vacationing in Bisbee, AZ a couple of months ago, we ran into an interesting shopkeeper. He owned an American Indian arts gallery in the canyon, and his store had been a Bisbee fixture for a very long time. As we were talking, he revealed that the store would soon be closing up after more than 25 years, or at least, that he would no longer be the proprietor. In shock, we asked how he could give up something he loved and had found so fulfilling for so long?! He said with a special twinkle in his eye, "Well you know, I'm going to be 80--this has been fun, but I need to finally decide what I want to do when I grow up."

This young-seeming gentle man, had traveled the West, knew many, many artisans and dealers in his field, understood his trade intimately, and found the business of dealing in Indian art admittedly FUN. Yet, he still felt as though he "hadn't yet grown up." I had to stop and think...what defines a "grown-up?" Did he feel this way because the work he did was what he loved doing and that it didn't seem like work? Did he feel he hadn't made a mark on society, hadn't left enough of a legacy, or that his life hadn't been tough enough to be taken seriously? I doubt that very much.

I think he was just ready for the next phase...he didn't say what he thought that would be exactly, but I know in my heart it wasn't going to be sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch watching the world go by!

As one of the Baby Boomer generation, I want to be like him...I want to keep doing what I love to do, for people I care about, with the joy and excitement that comes from knowing that every day I'm going to be helping others as well as myself to not just survive, but to flourish. I want to remember and learn from what he said: "I need to finally decide what I want to do when I grow up."

I've talked to lot's of Boomers my age who ask the same thing. When am I officially a grown-up? Is it when I graduate from school? Is it when I get my first paycheck and don't spend it all in one place? Is it when I finally plant myself and buy a house? Is it when I find a partner and make a family? When I go through my first real-life crisis and make it out intact? Or maybe when I start my own company, become someone else's boss? Is it when I go off to fight or accomplish something bigger than myself to help others? Could it be when my kids have their own offspring? Or, is it when I finally become my own parents' caregiver?

I used to wonder all the time, when was I was going to "feel" grown-up. When was I going to "act" grown-up? Well, maybe I don't want to be grown-up, afterall. Maybe wondering, wandering and wanting to find what's over the next hill is what our generation is all about. I know we're not the "Greatest" generation, and I know we're not exactly the mysteriously lost GenX-ers. But we Boomers are the biggest generation by far. Look at all the marketing aimed at us; with rock music commercials, and pants made to fit wider bottoms, and the growth of the wine and foodie industries! We've never quite settled with just being who we are right now, how things are right now...we want to be 'something' when we grow up. Being grown-up doesn't mean we are suddenly more serious, or make more of an impact in the world, or have less fun while doing it. It's just another phase with which to enjoy, to share, to make a difference in the world around us.

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I do know it's not going to be the last chapter in this story. Grown-ups aren't the bad guys, as we thought when we were teenagers. But they don't have to be boring, stick-in-the-muds, either. As long as we stay young-at-heart and keep searching, we're on the right track.

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