Dear Boomer: Embracing the inner rooster

March 4, 2024, 11:54 p.m.

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) A big cause of stress for me is always anticipating the future and the feeling of needing to have my whole life planned out. What is your biggest advice for being able to live more in the present? 

There is no humanly conceivable way that you can “plan out” anything, let alone your life. Oh sure, you can take a few courses toward a major, propose to a loved one or pack some boxes in preparation for a move. However, you may later decide to change majors or break up with that loved one or even stay put. The beauty of being human is our ability to change. Why would you want to cement in your future? It should feel open to possibilities.  

I’m sure you’re familiar with John Lennon’s famous line: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I’m sure as he walked toward his apartment to say “good night” to his son in 1980, it never occurred to him that seconds later he’d be shot dead. Being aware that death can come to us at any moment should precipitate our grounding in the now. Nothing else is real, not tomorrow’s plans or next summer’s trip. They haven’t happened yet. So why stress? It’s like screaming “Ouch!” before you even stub your toe. 

2) Recently, I’ve been going through the interview process to be a resident assistant for next year and it’s been so exhausting. Just like with job interviews, the uncertainty of the outcome is stressing me out and I’m tired of applying to things and not feeling good enough. How do I get better at interviewing? 

All outcomes are uncertain until they happen. Get used to it. You will have countless “interviews” in your lifetime, from jobs to romantic partners (I just had one in January at 71!). Stressing over them only makes you less yourself and it is your ‘self’ that gives the best interview. The only way to get better at something is to keep doing it. You won’t throw a perfect spiral the first time you throw a football.  

One thing I learned early on about interviews, which I still say to myself as a mantra, is, “I don’t want to be anywhere that I’m not wanted. If they don’t want me, I’m not meant to be there.” As for being “good enough,” what the heck does that mean? Good enough for what? Good enough for whom? You’re good enough for you and that should be enough. Embrace your inner rooster. Quit agonizing over every feather. Puff out your chest and crow.  

3) Last year, I was really good at keeping in touch with my friends back home through texting and calling. This year, I haven’t been calling them as much and I can feel my relationships drifting. I rarely go back home for breaks now and I don’t see myself returning after graduation — should I accept that my friendships will fade, or should I continue trying to make them work? 

Of course you “don’t go back” much, you’re too busy going forward! Part of growing up is accepting that things change, and most of your early friendships will fade. A handful may last for the next 50 years but most will not. If you insist on holding on to all of those “old” relationships, you will not have time to forge new ones. And it is the new ones that reaffirm and embrace the new person you are continually becoming. The nice thing about distance is being able to now look back at people and situations with more perspective. This alone will inform you as to whom and what to hold onto and whom or what to let go of.    

Often, we hang on to old relationships long past their due dates simply because they are known and comfortable. Don’t forget it takes about 50 hours to turn an acquaintance into a friend and another 150 to turn that friend into a good friend. You have to put in the time for those “new” friends, but it’s worth it. I’ve made better friends in the last 20 years than I did in the first 50. Why? Because I know exactly what I’m looking for now and so do they. 

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