Living in the 70s

“Living in the 70’s”* is the name of a song and an album released in 1974 under the Mushroom label by the Australian band Skyhooks. The writings in this section will not be about the 1970s but reflect on the nature of the human condition and age. Thus the words of the song resonate with the insecurities and challenges of entering the septuagenarian years:

I’m livin’ in the 70’s
I feel like I lost my keys
Got the right day but I got the wrong week….

I was actually born in the mid 1940s and was a pre-Boomer baby by a few months. When I realised I didn’t belong to the official Boomer generation about 20 years ago, I was almost devastated, feeling I had lost half my identity.

In a way, I did. But such categories have grey areas and like the then colour of my hair, life was a constant transition brought about by health, career-ending events, taking on new challenges, and – dare I admit it – my age.

Now I am in my seventies I find myself still coming to terms with the rapid transitions in what it is to be a septuagenarian. This year (I have started the blog in late 2017) I have spent the half of every week in Italian classes in Italy with foreigners who are mostly in their 20s and 30s and that has once again set me on an accelerated pattern of identity formation.

In one of my careers I was an academic, which is a constant challenge with the universal critical question, “Why is it thus and not otherwise?” But one of the habits of academia was constantly reading myself – was my lecture good enough? Am I keeping up with my peers? Am I doing the right thing by my students? And my identity was strongly tied up with the nature of the work, its importance, the cachet, or status, of being a researcher, a writer and a teacher, and where I fitted in within the community of scholars generally and in my discipline. It is a habit of self-evaluation, which I have not lost.

Well, my point about that in this area in which I am interested in writing – and it is broader than the grumblings of a man refusing to grow old – is to reflect on the important life questions which are critical for my readers of all ages. And for me.

James McDonald
20 March 2018

*sic (I don’t approve of the apostrophe here!)