Dear Boomer: Get a life!

Fifty years ago, I rode my Kawasaki from Portola Valley onto campus, usually squeaking into class just on time. While much has changed since then, one thing has remained constant: our humanness. We still search for meaning and need connection. We still have dreams, and we still screw up. In the last 50 years, as I’ve changed careers and locations, I’ve never stopped appreciating and observing my fellow companions. So, “Ask Boomer” anything. Surprise me. Life is short. Let’s add on to it.

— Helen Hudson ’74

Want your question to be featured in the next column? Ask Helen here!

#1 

“I always find myself in relationships where I miss someone else. In my last relationship (ex two), I was missing ex one, and, once ex two and I broke up, I started missing ex two for the first time. And I am about to enter another relationship now. It feels like I am never truly present, always wanting something I don’t have and not appreciating it when I have it. I don’t know what this means. I also don’t know if I am capable of falling in love and how to know and if I should wait until I find it or simply marry somebody I feel comfortable with.” 

Dear “Always Wanting Something I Don’t Have” 

First of all, let’s dump the notion of needing to “fall in love” and “be in a relationship.” Everything in our culture reinforces the stereotype and it not only puts pressure on us but makes us “feel” we should make something more of something we don’t necessarily “feel.” Some find their special person in their teens, others not until their 40’s and many folks not until their golden years. 

We are greedy little creatures, and wanting something we don’t have is part of being human. That’s okay sometimes. It is the ‘wanting’ that keeps us going forward with passion. However, wanting someone who is not, or no longer yours to have is a waste of time. It cheats all three of you. Our hearts, along with our bodies, constantly seek equilibrium. If you are missing someone who is no longer with you, there may have been no closure to the relationship. It could also mean that you never were your “real self” while with them. You coasted from a distance. Maybe that’s why you never felt “present.” 

You are absolutely capable of “falling in love.” It will happen despite your best intentions and likely when you’re least looking for it. As for marrying somebody you just “feel comfortable with?” Don’t you dare! You sound too impetuous to settle. These are the years you should be dating lots of people and not getting too serious. If you don’t know exactly what I mean by “serious,” that’s a whole other question in itself. 

#2 

“Dear Boomer, I am stressed that I have never been in a relationship. Entering the post-college world with no relationship experience seems daunting …” 

Dear “I Have No Experience:”

How awesome that you’ve never been in a relationship! How wonderful that you are still curiously skirting around the edges of love. Kudos! Hollywood has yet to gobble you up. My only concern for you is your “stress.” If the stress is because you feel lonely, that is normal. However, if the stress is because you aren’t keeping up with your peers in the dating lane, let that go now. You and your needs are unique. Value your own pace. There is no rush. I repeat: NO RUSH. You don’t need “experience” to enter a relationship. You just need you. The experience will come naturally and in its own time. 

#3 

“You’ve addressed maintaining romantic relationships in college — what about familial ones? I’ve been in college now for three years, but my parents are still having a tough time adjusting to my absence at home, and I don’t know how to help them … I think it’s more about the larger concept of my growing up and becoming independent, but I don’t know how to get them to fully acknowledge that progress. Any thoughts you might have? Thank you! :)” 

Dear “Waiting For Your Parents to Grow Up”:

It is not your job to help your parents. It is their job to help you and they did it by launching you into college. The rest is up to YOU, not them. Do not let them guilt trip you. Your parents need to create their new lives without you and three years is more than enough time. It makes me wonder if you’re an only child because only children often feel the heaviest parental burden when they leave the nest.

So, here’s my note to them: “Dear Mom and Dad: You’ve raised an awesome kid (they got into Stanford for cryin’ out loud). Be grateful that you gave them wings. Now, it’s their turn to fly and your turn to watch them soar. It’s also your turn to re-invent yourselves. I don’t care if you take up photography, cherry pie baking or goat yoga — but do something to get your mind off that Golden Child. Not only will they admire you more but if you back off and let them grow up, they might just check in on you now and then in your old age.” 

#4 

“Can you tell us more about how you became a therapist? What was your path? I’d love to take on a similar one.” 

Oh boy, you could say I took the circuitous route. My life has been trial by error (and sometimes fire). I majored in communications at Stanford and started as an investigative reporter. However, while doing my first story, people told me too much and I didn’t want to use it against them. If what I’d learned was published many of those involved would be hurt. So, I became an English teacher but absolutely HATED grading papers. So, I bought a guitar at a hobby shop and wrote a few songs. Someone told me I was good and should move to LA — so I did.

A few years later, I’d performed at several hundred colleges across the country and was chosen Campus Entertainer of the Year. However, a few years after that, someone told me I was “too old” for a record deal. So, I went back to school and got a master’s degree in counseling. Then I was in the perfect profession to listen to others’ secrets and sorrows and keep them safe. Along the way, I had two daughters, who kept me mostly in line. I’m writing this column because I thought it might be fun for you Gen Wonderfuls to hear from a Boomer who’s gone a few miles. You might say that I have now fallen back into that “something to fall back on.”


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