Waking Up In Fear

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Last week I bolted upright in bed, quaking in fear. Not from your typical nightmare involving boogeymen and/or politicians … but something more real. More pressing. And I stayed awake for hours, because this wasn’t a “It’s just a dream dear, go back to sleep” scenario. This one was real.

This nightmare was about retirement. Yea, I said retirement. As in, how it’s never going to happen and I’m screwed regardless. Think about our parents. They purchased a house, earned some equity, had a pension, and thus they had a plan. Maybe not a luxurious one, but they would be able to survive more or less comfortably as they aged out. Even blue collar workers like my father had that opportunity.

We don’t.

Some of us have stuffed money away in IRAs and 401Ks. Some of us were lucky enough to have our homes survive the recessions of the past few decades. But I hazard to say that most do not have the ability to walk away from work at the age of sixty-something and endlessly watch the weather channel. I know I don’t.

What bothered me most about that dream was wondering how I was going to make it. Yes, Nikki and I have a house that might one day soon be in the black. I can always fall back on work in an industry that pays well and doesn’t require youthful enthusiasm. Hell, with all of the old computer systems floating around geezers like me should be able to find employment here and there. But still … will I actually be working every day until I’m no longer breathing?

This has been a thought of mine for some time. I’m personally making some serious efforts to solidify my income options, but my nightmare wasn’t just about me. It was about my age group. We hear so much about how social security is going to dry up, but honestly it isn’t going to be enough to survive on. In my case, it will just cover the endless alimony payments that the original ex is still extorting from me. No one can “live” on a grand a month unless they have other means.

What’s going to happen to the general population of on-the-cusp Gen-Xers like me? Those who have been working towards something, and now find themselves not really being able to do anything except for plan for a long and meager life? (Damn I’m getting dramatic here!).

I have no answers, only questions. Or rather, I have fears. But I also have no choice but to move forward. Whatever awaits is still there. It’s not going to leave. I have a feeling that we of a certain age are going to need to be extremely creative. For most of our parents generation, they had memories of the era of the Great Depression and then lived their lives in relative prosperity. For me? The Great Recessions of 2000 and 2008 wiped me out. Along with some decisions that I wish I had made differently. And we 60-somethings can rightly expect another major downturn. The world just threw a pandemic at us on top of everything else we’ve witnessed. If I can expect to live another 30 years … the question of how becomes one that cannot be easily answered.

I believe that somehow I … and my peers … will make it through. But I also believe that we as a species need to stop looking towards the past and start figuring out how to make the future better. For every age group. Simple dignity of life is now split so far apart between “us and them” that it will reach a boiling point and spill over. Something large needs to be done for the next generations. And maybe those of us in the midst of it now can catch a little of that change as well.

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