As 2009 comes to a conclusion, I once again, and for the final time, address the end of the ‘60s.
Forty years ago, life was tumultuous and yet as seen from today’s perspective, it seemed simpler. Of course, I was much younger and to a person in the height of middle age, adolescent life always seems simpler.
I cannot stress enough that perspective is also important. I know many people who look back on their adolescence with loathing and treasure their middle years.
However, for me the life I had forty years ago was wonderful. Looking back upon it, I see what my parents meant when they told me I was living the best years of my life.
Real life began to seep in soon after that. In 1970, U.S. soldiers opened fire on a group of Viet Nam war protesters at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four. Neil Young was so angered by this news that he wrote “Ohio” to mark the occasion and express his rage.
It was in the ‘70s that I also began to lose friends and school mates to accidents... car accidents, drowning, and a couple of unexplained deaths left us all shaken. My father’s passing in 1976 at the age of fifty four was a major shock to me and the marriages and divorces most of my friends experienced brought the reality of adult life to the fore.
We’ve all grown; experienced joy and suffering, had triumphs and failures, gains and losses. In the end we will no doubt find that our generation is structurally no different than any other generation at any other time in history. From my own perspective, that step where I sat in 1967 when I heard the declaration labeling it “The Summer of Love” was rebuilt and now faces another direction. Sitting there doesn’t feel the same facing the street instead of the yard. The trees are now much taller, blocking my view of the buildings that remain; many of the older ones having been torn down in the years that have passed. In fact the step, along with the house it is attached to will soon be on the market to be sold. After many years as a struggling and sometimes successful musician, I am once again working a day job, and getting up in the morning is so completely opposite to going to bed then.
Yet, I do not despair, for I have learned SO much along the way and what I have learned is far more valuable than the childhood life that I can select to remember only in the fondest and best ways. I have chosen to not remember easily the angst of adolescence or the not so great experiences of my early adult life. In the same way, in years to come, the difficulties I experience today will soften and I will remember these days fondly as I compare the perceived difficulties of being a senior citizen with the relative ease of middle age.