Is This How the Boomers Felt?

cover photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The Definition of Phone

I am struck by the stark contrast between today’s cultural norms and the norms from the late 90s. Cell phones had become popular by then, but they were still quite expensive for the average person.

Remember when you had to pay extra to call outside of your area code/zone/network?

Minutes were everything in the 90s. Cell phones from that era were nothing more than literal mobilized phones. Then, text messaging became a functionality. Suddenly, people were pressing the number pads with a speed not too dissimilar from how quickly our fingers swipe across our screens today. Charging for a call out of one’s area code or network zone quickly became a thing of the past. So, too, did phoning someone.

Nowadays, my phone rings for two reasons: there’s been an emergency or it’s spam.


Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

I recently had a student tell me she had broken up with her partner and wasn’t able to turn in her assignments on time. Without hesitation, I sent her a supportive reply and told her to take the time she needed. Then it hit me, when I was her age, I went through a similar experience, but I dared not approach my professors about requesting an extension.

The university I teach at offers wellness seminars and meditation zoom sessions, and there are workshops for those who are experiencing compassion fatigue. I, as an instructor, am expected to see my students not just as learners, but as whole people with lives that impact their ability to show up. I am also expected to accommodate them.

Intellectually, I believe this is the right thing. Yet, when I was in university, the deadline was the deadline and the only thing that could alter that was death or illness. Personal heartache didn’t qualify.

Second Chances

Students from elementary school all the way up to higher education get multiple chances on assignments and certain quizzes and tests. As a mother, I love this approach. It gives my children a second chance to close the gap in their learning if such a need arises. As a teacher, I don’t mind this either because it is the knowledge that stays with you, not the grades. Yet, I can’t help but remember that time I failed an exam. With the proverbial hat in hand, I walked to the professor’s office and humbly asked for extra credit (that’s additional work) that could help boost my grade to offset the failed exam.

I don’t remember too many second chances. The world just didn’t operate like that back then.

Did the Boomers Feel This Way?

When my generation arrived on the scene, ripe with enthusiasm and optimism, did the Baby Boomers inhale with extreme patience at our naiveté and think back to how different life was for them?

Will you stop sending me emails and pick up the phone!

I am happy for some of the changes that are now the norm and believe they are good for society and our individual well-being. Why shouldn’t a student or employee acknowledge that they’re experiencing a challenge at home and will be at half capacity for a while? Are they not human? Are they not allowed to be human?

Yet, I can’t stop reflecting on a time when personal “excuses” weren’t allowed. How many people cried in the office bathroom? Took naps in their cars? Or worse, quit because all they needed was a little grace for a small moment in time?

I remember back in 1997, a fellow student announced during a class discussion that I was only admitted to fill an affirmative action quota. Today, more than likely, that student would be facing a disciplinary board for such an openly racist statement. However, back then, the discussion continued, the class ended, and I reminded myself that I earned a seat at that school.

Staring at Progress

Do the boomers have similar stories of perseverance and progress? Were they happy for the changes but somewhat dismayed when they reflect on how they were forced to endure?

Some days it’s second nature to offer support and kindness; yet, I cannot deny that I have moments when I stop and reflect on how different things were when I was starting out. But if I perceive that it was harder for my generation than it is for the next, doesn’t that just mean we’re headed in the right direction?

6 thoughts on “Is This How the Boomers Felt?

  1. That’s exactly what it means. We’re moving in the right direction. Each generation has their own story of struggles overcame but in knowing that we also see where we learned from our past. We have a long road ahead of us but progress has been won. As a current student (in my 30s) I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have teachers like you who provided empathy and allows extra time for submission. Cheers to the future!

    1. Absolutely! I had to write this to work through my emotions. And I thought of you as you juggle so many balls. You are amazing.

  2. During my corporate days, I found I had a lot of excuses for not meeting deadlines. It wasn’t because I didn’t plan my time properly. It was because too much was expected by others. There wasn’t enough time in the day to meet everyone’s demands. Alas, some were very unhappy. I didn’t like letting people down, but there’s only so much I can do in one day.

    On the other hand, asking for continual extensions of time has its consequences, too. An occasional pass is fine; all of us have times when our various worlds collide and something has to give. But you have to pause and reflect if you’re constantly asking for second chance.

    My two cents for whatever it’s worth.

    1. Corporate is great training ground for professionalism and burnout. The matrix reporting structure. The multiple projects with varying deadlines and competing priorities.

      I remember those times well. I remember being grateful I did not have kids as I put my head down far too many nights and worked far too late for approval and the proverbial pat on the back.

      I think times are (have?) changed. Sure, there are companies that still don’t see employees as a whole person, and far too many people still burnout at their boss(es) request. But I’d like to think, for the most part, we’re trending in the right direction. At least at those Fortune 500 companies whose culture and work practices often (over time) trickle down to smaller organizations.

      I agree, though. If a request for an extension becomes too frequent, it’s a sign that something isn’t working.

      1. I think COVID has been a game changer. I think it has shifted the corporate dynamic from the employer to employee.

      2. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal today about this very thing. Sadly, I am not sure there has been a significant shift of power. People still need jobs in and around their current salary.

        I’ve read that some companies are now offering fully remote, but at a lower pay. Sigh…

        Then I read that some people are quitting, but more are having to come back to the office begrudgingly because they need a job!

        I don’t know, but I am curious to see how this shakes out.

        I turned down a role back in February that pays 3xs as much as my teaching job (it was in corporate communications—so not a fair apple-to-apple comparison) because they wanted me to come in to the office five days a week to do a job I had done for 4 years at home, fully remote, covering the globe and juggling different time zones.

        But to be completely honest, I was only able to do that because my husband is our major breadwinner. What if I were the breadwinner? What if I were a single mother? I would have had to take that job. That’s what concerns me. How many people have found a better way of living and working, but are now having to give it up because of “corporate control”?

        So many of these jobs can be done remotely.

        I’m hoping over time, covid does teach us that we can have work/life balance/harmony and do it remotely.
        This has been an amazing discussion!

        Thanks so much.

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