Chance Encounters


Handicapped ParkingAs Bob made a very long and wide turn from the drive with our Ford F-150 truck to park it in a handicapped space another car came from the opposite side of the drive and pulled straight into the space next to us.

We were both laughing about our similar aches and limps as we very gingerly exited our truck to approach the sidewalk to the movie theatre entrance.

Hey, wanna race?

I next noticed a very fashionably dressed, color coordinated, grey haired lady in front of me who had gotten out of the car that parked beside us.  She was favoring her left leg similar to me with my current gait. So, when I got close enough, I tapped her on her right shoulder and asked, “Hey, wanna race?”  Much to my delight and surprise, she responded with, “I’m sure it wouldn’t be much of a race for you because you’re much younger than me. You see, I’m 93.”

Bob and I instantly froze in our tracks and stared–probably with our eyes bulging, our mouths wide open, and our jaws very near the ground.  Before us stood a beautiful 93 year old who donned a full head of impeccably styled grey hair.  She was wearing powder blue slacks, powder blue flats, and carrying a powder blue purse.  Her outfit matched her beautiful powder blue eyes.  I’m quite sure as a younger woman she must have had a peaches and cream complexion because in the bright sunlight of the afternoon her face was absolutely wrinkle free with no noticeable age spots or lines.  We both congratulated her on her youthful appearance and we all then proceeded to the ticket counter.    And, wouldn’t you know it, we all bought tickets to see Lee Daniels,The Butler.

Lee Daniel’s The Butler

THE-BUTLERThe Butler movie is loosely based on the real life of an African American sharecropper’s son who was born in Georgia in 1919–just one year earlier than my beautiful acquaintance from the parking lot just outside.  He goes to Washington in the 1950’s and eventually serves eight U.S. presidents as a White House butler–from Eisenhower to Reagan.  Forrest Whitaker was great as the fictional character named “Cecil Gaines”. The cultural, political, societal and emotional peaks and valleys all came rushing back over me. In the closing scenes, President Obama has invited then retired butler Gaines back to the White House to honor him and his 34 years of service.

Sharing Old Feelings and Emotional Memories

After the movie we met up again with our newly found friend from the parking lot.  We immediately started exchanging comments about the movie.  And we agreed that the movie was very good; that it caused old feelings and emotional memories to rush back in on us.  And, she expressed to me how wrong the days of slavery and segregation were and how unfortunately racism seems to still be alive and there’s more to be done to improve our American culture and society.

Going Our Separate Ways

It’s rare when we cross paths of strangers, never exchange names or other personal information, yet instantly become connected as though we had been longtime friends.  I’ll always cherish those moments with this kind and gentle young woman of 93.  Oh yes, and while in line for refreshments, I did ask her to what she owed her health and longevity.  She politely smiled and said to me’ ” I guess my genes, but I don’t want to live to be 100″.  We parted by wishing each other well and went off on our separate ways.

As Busy As A Spider Spinning Day Dreams…


… a key lyric in one of the popular songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s score for the 1945 movie State Fair.

Add to this the fact that schools nationwide just started back for the year, kids sports and music lessons and events get underway, new and returning TV shows start premiering, and the lovely Fall weather has arrived to bless us as we scurry to meet all our annual demands that overflow our schedules.  And here I sit, reading FaceBook and writing posts about my reminisces of school days, favorite movies, and the local fairs that always began in September.

Then, as I take one last peek to see who’s saying/doing what, my niece, Jaclyn Boling, has posted a message on FaceBook to say that her three pieces of artwork (2 sketches and 1 sculpture) received first through third place awards at the 90th Annual Charles County Fair held in La Plata in Southern Maryland this past week.

JackiesFacebookMessage

Jackie' s Sketch of Marilyn Monroe

Jackie’ s Sketch of Marilyn Monroe

Jackie's Sketch of Michael Jackson

Jackie’s Sketch of Michael Jackson

So, it just seems fitting that this post should revisit Time Magazine’s A Brief History of State Fairs:

Minnesota: Proud Winner
State and county fairs have been organized in the United States since 1841, when the first such gathering was organized in Syracuse, New York. Food — both its production and enjoyment — has been their centerpiece from the very beginning. In this 1926 photo, a man poses with his prize winning gourds at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul.

A Brief History1

Photo from: MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY / CORBIS

Illinois: Livestock
The judging of livestock in the U.S. dates to the 19th century. In the photograph below, competitors parade their charges before judges at the Illinois State Fair in 1958.

A Brief History2

Frank Scherschel / Time Life Pictures / Getty

California Cattle

Credit for the idea of the state fair is often given to Elkanah Watson, a wealthy New England farmer and businessman who showcased his sheep in the public square of Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1807.

Jon Brenneis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Jon Brenneis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Iowa: Cakes

Recipe judging is one of the oldest kind of competition at the fairs, dating to the early 1800s.
John Dominis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

John Dominis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Michigan: Midway

A strong man who has just risen from a bed of nails — where he allowed another man to stand on his chest — displays the nail marks to children in the audience.

Francis Miller / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Francis Miller / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Iowa: Photo Fun

Women place their heads on risque drawings at the 1955 Iowa fair.
John Dominis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

John Dominis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

California: Technology

A dental x-ray machine is demonstrated at an exhibit presented by the California dental association in 1953.

Jon Brenneis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Jon Brenneis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Minnesota Gimmick

Radio talk show host Barbara Carlson, wearing a party dress and pearl necklace, delivers her broadcast from a hot tub at the 1993 Minnesota State Fair.

Bruce Kluckhohn / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Bruce Kluckhohn / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Iowa: Amusement

Thrill-seekers hang on for dear life at the Iowa fairground near Des Moines.

John Dominis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

John Dominis / Time Life Pictures / Getty

Iowa: Lifelike

LAYNE KENNEDY/CORBIS

LAYNE KENNEDY/CORBIS

Butter sculptures, introduced initially by the dairy industry to promote its product, date to 1903. This 2001 entry, of actor John Wayne required 400 pounds of butter and four days of labor.

Iowa: Squirt Guns

The Obama’s and their children try their hand at a game booth at a campaign stop at the state fair near Des Moines in 2007.

JOSHUA LOTT / REUTERS / CORBIS

JOSHUA LOTT / REUTERS / CORBIS

New York: Eats

Among the many treats on offer to fair goers: deep fried candy bars, funnel cakes, cotton candy, pizza, corn dogs and elephant ears.
DAVID JAY ZIMMERMAN / CORBI

DAVID JAY ZIMMERMAN / CORBIS

Maryland: Nightfall

In many states, the fairs continue to draw huge crowds each year.
KEVIN FLEMING / CORBIS

KEVIN FLEMING / CORBIS

References:

http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1916488_1921800_last,00.html

A Perceptive Eye…Today’s Generations


The following post by waitbutwhy.com appeared on Sunday, September 15, 2013, at HuffingtonPost.com, titled Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.  It’s about Lucy, who is part of Generation Y, the generation born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s–like children in our family whose parents are baby boomers and like so many of my coworkers and subordinates in the years just before my retirement.

This cleverly and simplistically told and illustrated story so resonated with me that I had no choice but to post it in my blog as part of understanding my family’s cultural history and identity in the 21st century.  I think you will enjoy it, too–so here it is with a few commentary adaptations added along the way:

Say hi to Lucy

2013-09-15-Geny1.jpgLucy’s part of a yuppie culture that makes up a large portion of Gen Y.  I have a term for yuppies in the Gen Y age group — I call them Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies, or GYPSYs. A GYPSY is a unique brand of yuppie, one who thinks they are the main character of a very special story.

So Lucy’s enjoying her GYPSY life, and she’s very pleased to be Lucy. Only issue is this one thing:

Lucy’s kind of unhappy.

To get to the bottom of why, we need to define what makes someone happy or unhappy in the first place. It comes down to a simple formula:

2013-09-15-Geny2.jpg

It’s pretty straightforward — when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy.

To provide some context, let’s start by bringing Lucy’s parents into the discussion:

2013-09-15-Geny3.jpgLucy’s parents (like me) were born in the ’50s — they’re Baby Boomers. Lucy’s Baby Boomer parents were raised by her grandparents, members of the G.I. Generation, or “the Greatest Generation,” who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II, and were most definitely not GYPSYs.

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Lucy’s Depression Era grandparents were obsessed with economic security and raised her parents to build practical, secure careers. They wanted her parents’ careers to have greener grass than their own, and Lucy’s parents were brought up to envision a prosperous and stable career for themselves. Something like this:

2013-09-15-Geny5.jpgThey were taught that there was nothing stopping them from getting to that lush, green lawn of a career, but that they’d need to put in years of hard work to make it happen.

2013-09-15-Geny6.jpgAfter graduating from being insufferable hippies, Lucy’s parents embarked on their careers. As the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s rolled along, the world entered a time of unprecedented economic prosperity. Lucy’s parents did even better than they expected to. This left them feeling gratified and optimistic.

2013-09-15-Geny7.jpg
With a smoother, more positive life experience than that of their own parents, Lucy’s parents raised Lucy with a sense of optimism and unbounded possibility. And they weren’t alone. Baby Boomers all around the country and world told their Gen Y kids that they could be whatever they wanted to be, instilling the special protagonist identity deep within their psyches.

This left GYPSYs feeling tremendously hopeful about their careers, to the point where their parents’ goals of a green lawn of secure prosperity didn’t really do it for them. A GYPSY-worthy lawn has flowers.

2013-09-15-Geny8.jpg

This leads to our first fact about GYPSYs:

GYPSYs Are Wildly Ambitious

2013-09-15-Geny9.jpg

The GYPSY needs a lot more from a career than a nice green lawn of prosperity and security. The fact is, a green lawn isn’t quite exceptional or unique enough for a GYPSY. Where the Baby Boomers wanted to live The American Dream, GYPSYs want to live Their Own Personal Dream.

Cal Newport points out that “follow your passion” is a catchphrase that has only gotten going in the last 20 years, according to Google’s Ngram viewer, a tool that shows how prominently a given phrase appears in English print over any period of time. The same Ngram viewer shows that the phrase “a secure career” has gone out of style, just as the phrase “a fulfilling career” has gotten hot.

2013-09-15-Geny10.jpg

2013-09-15-geny11.jpg

To be clear, GYPSYs want economic prosperity just like their parents did —

They just also want to be fulfilled by their career in a way their parents didn’t think about as much.

But something else is happening too. While the career goals of Gen Y as a whole have become much more particular and ambitious, Lucy has been given a second message throughout her childhood as well:

2013-09-15-Geny12.jpg
This would probably be a good time to bring in our second fact about GYPSYs:

GYPSYs Are Delusional

“Sure,” Lucy has been taught, “everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling career, but I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd.” So on top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual GYPSY thinks that he or she is destined for something even better —

A shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn. 

2013-09-15-Geny13.jpg

So why is this delusional? Because this is what all GYPSYs think, which defies the definition of special:

spe-cial | ‘speSHel |
adjective
better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.

According to this definition, most people are not special — otherwise “special” wouldn’t mean anything.

Even right now, the GYPSYs reading this are thinking, “Good point… but I actually am one of the few special ones” — and this is the problem.

A second GYPSY delusion comes into play once the GYPSY enters the job market. While Lucy’s parents’ expectation was that many years of hard work would eventually lead to a great career, Lucy considers a great career an obvious given for someone as exceptional as she, and for her it’s just a matter of time and choosing which way to go. Her pre-workforce expectations look something like this:

2013-09-15-Geny14.jpg

Unfortunately, the funny thing about the world is that it turns out to not be that easy of a place, and the weird thing about careers is that they’re actually quite hard. Great careers take years of blood, sweat and tears to build — even the ones with no flowers or unicorns on them — and even the most successful people are rarely doing anything that great in their early or mid-20s.

But GYPSYs aren’t about to just accept that.

Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire professor and GYPSY expert, has researched this, finding that Gen Y has “unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback,” and “an inflated view of oneself.” He says that “a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren’t in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting.”

For those hiring members of Gen Y, Harvey suggests asking the interview question, “Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers/classmates/etc., and if so, why?” He says that “if the candidate answers yes to the first part but struggles with the ‘why,’ there may be an entitlement issue. This is because entitlement perceptions are often based on an unfounded sense of superiority and deservingness. They’ve been led to believe, perhaps through overzealous self-esteem building exercises in their youth, that they are somehow special but often lack any real justification for this belief.”

And since the real world has the nerve to consider merit a factor, a few years out of college Lucy finds herself here:

2013-09-15-Geny15.jpg

Lucy’s extreme ambition, coupled with the arrogance that comes along with being a bit deluded about one’s own self-worth, has left her with huge expectations for even the early years out of college. And her reality pales in comparison to those expectations, leaving her “reality – expectations” happy score coming out at a negative.

And it gets even worse. On top of all this, GYPSYs have an extra problem that applies to their whole generation:

GYPSYs Are Taunted

Sure, some people from Lucy’s parents’ high school or college classes ended up more successful than her parents did. And while they may have heard about some of it from time to time through the grapevine, for the most part they didn’t really know what was going on in too many other peoples’ careers.

Lucy, on the other hand, finds herself constantly taunted by a modern phenomenon:Facebook Image Crafting.

Social media creates a world for Lucy where A) what everyone else is doing very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence, and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are going the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation. This leaves Lucy feeling, incorrectly, like everyone else is doing really well, only adding to her misery:

2013-09-15-Geny16.jpg

So that’s why Lucy is unhappy, or at the least, feeling a bit frustrated and inadequate. In fact, she’s probably started off her career perfectly well, but to her, it feels very disappointing.

Here’s my advice for Lucy:

1) Stay wildly ambitious. The current world is bubbling with opportunity for an ambitious person to find flowery, fulfilling success. The specific direction may be unclear, but it’ll work itself out — just dive in somewhere.

2) Stop thinking that you’re special. The fact is, right now, you’re not special. You’re another completely inexperienced young person who doesn’t have all that much to offer yet. You can become special by working really hard for a long time.

3) Ignore everyone else. Other people’s grass seeming greener is no new concept, but in today’s image crafting world, other people’s grass looks like a glorious meadow. The truth is that everyone else is just as indecisive, self-doubting, and frustrated as you are, and if you just do your thing, you’ll never have any reason to envy others.