The Last Baby Boomer in the Office
by Candy Kearney
I am the last Baby Boomer in my office. I share a large open office space with one Generation X’er and two Millennials. My co-workers range in age from 29 to 38. I am 64.
It’s kind of like trying to share your home with a kangaroo, an okapi and a gnu. How do I understand them? What exactly do I do with them?
They are all having — and talking about — babies. Literally every one of my office co-workers has a baby, or has one on the way. Here is the conversation on a day-to-day basis: baby poop, baby vomit, potty training, sick babies that scream at night. Baby theme parties, baby showers, baby outings. Not getting enough sleep. C-sections. Who’s pregnant, and isn’t that wonderful. Other subjects: Big weddings, big engagement rings. What’s going on with the Bachelorette, the Kardashians and Justin Bieber.
“Big” vocabulary words like “blasphemous”, phrases such as “dead ringer” or mentioning of historical events such as “Kent State” meet with blank stares. Names, such as “Neil Young”, ditto.
My mind is turning to mush. I put in my earbuds and rock out to Paul Simon, Pat Benatar and David Bowie while I work. I suspect they don’t know who these people are.
They still think who they are is tied to what they do; hence bragging and competing abounds. I already have a fully-blown ego, thank you very much, and am now trying to obliterate it, to hopefully find my balance in the world, instead of trying to bend the world to my will.
They are still trying to build their careers and claw their way upward. I am thinking about all the living I am missing by sitting at this desk. They are trying to accumulate stuff, and I am trying to simplify.
They still get the giggles. They text each other back and forth and send emojis. I remember those days when everything was funny and you got the giggles for nothing, and everyone tried to top the last funny thing said. Trouble is, you have to actually think that the subject being discussed is funny, and sometimes that’s hard when you’ve got a 30 year jump on things. Your sense of funny is a higher bell to hit.
You know those dreams you have, where you find yourself back in high school? It seems like it would be fun, but I’m pretty sure it would not be so good in reality, because sometimes I feel like that’s where I am. Here’s the best way I can describe the difference to any millennial who may possibly still be reading at this point: when you were a kid at a family reunion, you ran around in the dusk catching fireflies and playing tag with your cousins. You looked at the adults sitting in their lawn chairs and said to yourself, “I’ll never be one of those boring old grownups just sitting around talking. I’ll always chase fireflies”. Then, one day, you realize you are the adult sitting there with a drink, talking to other adults — and — you like it! As a child, you couldn’t realize that your interests and outlook would change, for something better. My Millennial and Gen X office mates don’t realize this yet, either - that someday they will look back on themselves as they are now, and see someone who no longer interests them.
I have been told by some to whom I have told this sad tale, that this is not a generational problem, but more a problem with these particular individuals, or with the mix of all of our personalities. I agree that there are many young people I work with who are awake in the world, and a joy to know. But I suspect that I am not the only older worker who feels sidelined by the growing number of younger workers who, by majority, dominate the office with a babbling culture of subjects and values that the Boomer is so over and done with.
I hope you don’t think this article is going to end with advice for all you Last Baby Boomers on how to bridge the office generational gap when you are outnumbered. It can probably be done, but the work is going to have to come from the Baby Boomer, since they are the only one who understands what’s going on from both generational perspectives. But that’s not how my tale ends. Eventually, I opted to leave the company and start a whole new chapter in life as a free-lancer with, hopefully, plenty of time in between to enjoy the richness of life. I’m my own boss, the sky’s the limit, and no one’s chattering in my ear about baby poop. I’m much happier now. And, I imagine, so are they.
Free-lance designer, sometimes writer and grower of new wings.