I don’t know if I want to read Bradley Hagerty’s new book, Life Reimagined, but I do like Sara Scribner’s review of it in Salon It appears that Hagerty’s book falls in the same line as Derek Thompson’s Atlantic piece last year, or Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. With a little pluck and a dash of imagination you can change your life. However, as Ms. Scribner writes, “it’s a message that can feel like a slap in the face for some Generation Xers, many of whom, post-recession, have found themselves in competition with Millennials for low wages and nonexistent job security.” ( Gen X and the big self-help lie; In furious middle age, a “Life Reimagined” feels impossibly out of reach. Salon. 4/9/2016)
She is right in saying that Middle Age people are angry to the point of fury. “Perhaps the reason why people are so angry is that our bedrock beliefs have not changed even though so many of us are living very different lives than we have imagined we would.” (Ibid) I fully agree with Ms. Scribner that maybe chucking it all to write that Great American Novel (while working a minimum-wage job since you can’t find anything else) may seem disconnected from a world that is suffering post-traumatic shock in what the American Dream is all about. No matter how much effort you put into building that social network, creating goals, and having the right mindset, none of these help if you cannot find a job with that Master’s Degree, can’t find a decent house to buy in a safe neighborhood, or get laid off after 20 years because the company is moving it to the Philippines.
Since about 1970 conditions for the average American have steadily become more difficult; and it’s not just a Generation X phenomenon. Yet, I remember a year ago telling my Baby Boomer aunt that I would have changed many things in my life twenty years ago if I could “We all say that,” was her reply and she’s right. We all know that life if rough and you may not get much back in return for all the hard work you do. You have to keep trying, as everyone out there knows, and to give up is the worse thing possible you can do. As Father Reinhold Niebuhr said in the Serenity Prayer we can only change the things we can in our lives. However, what I believe is enraging so many people right now is that the things that they cannot are negatively impacting them; and that other people seem to be responsible for it.