I was in New York this past weekend on business, and had Saturday off. Since I lost my job in April, I have become another “Accidental Entrapenuer”. I was in New York making a presentation for my newly launched marketing business. I didn’t want to sit in my hotel all alone, so I decided to take in a play on Broadway. I saw that “Hair”, the counter culture musical from 1967 was being performed. I always loved the play, and especially the soundtrack, so I bought a ticket and went to see it.
As I was standing in line to enter the theater, I was having flashbacks (not literally) of the time I first discovered the music of “Hair”. For a moment, I was back in my bedroom in Milwaukee, listening to the vinyl recording of “Hair” on my Zenith stereo turntable, with separate speakers. I mention the speakers because, in 1967, it was a big deal to have such an expensive sound system. Most sound systems consisted of a turntable with small, crummy sounding built-in speakers. My system was state-of-the-art. The “Hair” soundtrack sounded so good. The songs were not your typical musical songs. They had real meaning. Some of them didn’t even rhyme. I hadn’t seen the play, and only heard that the entire cast gets naked on stage. I could only imagine what the story was actually about from the words to the songs. It was the first musical that wasn’t about “Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back”. “Hair” was very political. I was just turning 13 years old, and heading towards the Hippy movement. “Hair” caught my attention, and moved me closer to that direction. It had a lasting impact on my life.
Now, hearing the music once again, forty two years later, and much further down the road of life, it had a whole new meaning to me. Since I last sat down to listen to the record sometime in around 1969, so much has happened to me. I grew up, as we all did. Instead of relating to the young people in the play, I saw myself as the adults. That made me very sad. I never wanted to grow up. I never wanted to enter the material world. But life forces all of us to either join the world, or get left behind. I now have a wife and children, a mortgage, a car payment, and even a job where I wear a suit and tie….UGH!
While was watching the play, my mind drifted back to 1967. The irony of our generation came crashing into my brain. Our generation, the famous Baby Boomers, were just entering adulthood when “Hair” first played. We were able to drive a car, stay out late, and date. We smoked pot and took so many other drugs. We were innocent, and talked about love and peace, and other lofty ideals. “Make Love, Not War”. “Don’t trust anyone over 30”. “Kill your parents”. The very idea of wearing a suit, and joining “The Establishment” seemed like such a terrible idea. “Not me”, I used to say. “I’ll never become like my father”.
Little did I know that thirteen years later, in 1980, I would officially enter the adult world of a full time job, a car payment, rent (and later a mortgage), and all of the things I rejected just a few years earlier. Without noticing it, I became my father. It wasn’t until this evening, while watching “Hair” that I fully realized exactly what happened to me. But, an even bigger realization hit me. My entire generation, the Peace and Love generation grew up along with me. And, we grew up to become exactly what we rejected, and even worse.
Peace and love was replaced by a new BMW and a McMansion in Irvine, a high rise condo in Manhattan, a beachfront chateau in Miami Beach, and an estate on ten acres in Santa Fe. We went to the extreme in materialistic collecting. We became defined by the things we owned and the title on our business card. What was inside us did not matter. Who we were as individuals was no longer important. It was all about the surface appearance. That was our downfall, and the downfall of our society. Because we had to have it all, even if it meant taking out loans we could not afford, or be able to ever pay back. As long as we could make the minimum monthly payment, that’s all that mattered.
Until July of 2007. That’s when the start of the stock market crash first hit us. And it continued for another year. When it finally bottomed out, we all found ourselves broke, shattered, and unemployed. Suddenly, we could no longer afford the boat, the gourmet kitchen, and all of the monthly payments that came along with those things.
As I was listening to “Aquarius”, I wondered what happened to all of us. What went off in our brains that suddenly rejected what was so important to us when we were young. It seems that when the Baby Boomers entered the working word en mass, which was around 1980, we traded our altruistic ideals for stuff, and more stuff. Just as we were preparing to exit the working world, flush with all the cash and stuff we accumulated the past 27 years, our horrendous lifestyle caught up to us. We almost got out with all of it, but not quite.
Our generation was the one that invented the bumper sticker “He who dies with the most toys, wins”. If we are to believe what we wrote, we are all a bunch of losers now. But we are not losers, we are all the same people we were in 1967. Now that we don’t have a lot of money in the bank, a fancy title and job, and a lot of stuff, we are all having to dig deep and find out who we really are. We are discovering that we are not what our business card says we are, we are not a new BMW in the driveway of our McMansion. We are people. We are human beings with feelings, and souls. A day at the beach near my home with my family and a picnic lunch is just as much fun as the same day on a beach in Hawaii, just a lot less money. Living within my means, even my newly reduced means, is actually more fun than the expensive lifestyle I used to live just a few years ago. Love is still love, and when times are hard, being with the ones you love is so much more special.
As we exit the career building phase of our lives, we must get back to the ideals we entered it with. Money and material things are fun to have, but not the most important thing. What is important is love, and peace, and freedom. We are not our titles and jobs, our title and job is us, and what we make of it. When the day is over, did we make the world a better place than it was when it started? If we did, we are truly successful, and that is what is really important, not the BMW.