Cookie Schwaeber-Issan
Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

The Generational Divide – What Ours Has that Theirs is Missing

In just a couple of months I’ll be 70, so the fact that one of my closest friends/confidantes is actually 33 defies the premise of this piece.

It’s a mystery worth exploring to understand how important components of my generation have been lost to the present generation of young people, many of whom are suffering from the inability to “go the distance,” exhibit tolerance of others, be willing to disagree but, nonetheless, continue an ongoing discussion and, most of all, love, admire and respect each other in spite of their generational divide.

The glue between Elia and me is our love of politics.  Having said that, our political opinions don’t always coincide, but, given that each of us has the desire to listen to the other, one of us can sometimes be persuaded to change our viewpoint.

As someone who grew up in the 1950s, there is no question that I am very much a product of the values, mores and views which accompanied my formative years.  Those include a deep faith and observance within the context of my religious background (although one which can also exhibit skepticism and challenge when needed), a strong foundation of the traditional family, love of country, patriotism and freedom, an appreciation of hard work, honesty, integrity, loyalty and a desire to get along with my fellow man.

While those ethics and values may have always been seen as a positive, I am saddened to have to admit that, with the passage of time, the engineered agenda to vastly change societal norms and adopt new lifestyle choices and world views has been terribly detrimental to this new generation.  The aforementioned principles, which have largely been responsible for a stable civilization, have, regrettably, been replaced with laziness, lying, self-absorption, a contempt of authority, greed and easily taking offense at otherwise innocuous words.

Consequently, it is so rare that someone my age has been able to maintain an ongoing, mutually respectful and exhilarating relationship which continues to stand the test of time.

I dare say that Elia is unique in the fact that she is open to a diversity of opinion, reasoning and consideration of thought – probably, first and foremost, because she is a realist.  She sees, with her own eyes, what has yielded success and chooses not to argue with it.

Case in point! In our many discussions concerning marriage, Elia, like others her age, believes that finding a person with whom she feels would be worth going the distance is not an easy feat.  It could, in part, be due to the bill of goods that is being sold to her generation through programs such as, “Marriage at First Sight.”  Convincing me to watch one episode, I couldn’t even get through the first half without seeing just how superficial and baseless the relationships were.

While Elia laughed and let me know that it’s more for the entertainment value, she says that everyone expects most of these couples to break up and go nowhere.  Of course, I know that it takes years of getting to know someone’s strengths, quirks, weaknesses and foibles, and even after you think you have adequately done so, marriage magnifies each one of them all the more.

This is where the generational divide comes in.  My generation, for the most part, really did believe in “till death do us part.”  Even if the marriage was less than ideal, we became realists, understanding that everyone comes with their unique pluses and also their unique baggage.  I assured her that I wouldn’t trade my husband for anyone else, because, although, we have definitely had our share of differences, living with each other, day after day, is comforting, predictable in a good way, soothing and unable to be replaced by something better – which likely does not exist anyway.  Do we drive each other nuts at times – unquestionably, but do we respect, need one another and value every day as a bonus – without a doubt.

When Elia asked me what the secret was, I started off by telling her that one must pick their fights wisely.  Everything your partner does can’t be aggravating, irritating and bothersome, because once that continues to be expressed to them, it chips away at their confidence.  In the end, the trust level becomes diminished as does the feeling of good will between the two.  Unlike so many among her age group, who have grown up in a culture which holds differences of opinion, not as an asset but rather as a negative, Elia is so much more willing to examine things closely and make her own findings. Consequently, she is not a believer in shaming, name calling, canceling and fits of rage over someone who dares to get out of lockstep with the accepted preponderance of wisdom.

These days, it takes a fair bit of courage to go against the tide, and it is, sadly, because of the younger generation’s refusal to stand on principled convictions that they will likely not be as sturdy, as apt to survive and, in the end, will lack the needed skills and tolerance demanded to get along with others and find success in life.  Elia has a keen understanding of what will serve her well as she begins the journey of living.

So even though there are so many things about which we don’t agree, we’re still talking them through with respect, dignity and open ears for one another’s opinion.

Elia is the rare case amongst her peer group.  She’s not looking for shortcuts.  On the contrary, she’s looking for lasting happiness, contentment, true meaning and satisfying relationships.  After having viewed enough faulty examples, she’s in search of the genuine.

So here is my advice to all the Elias out there who are also feeling that they may have been done a great disservice by entertainers, politicians, media, educators and all the others who have attempted to create a new set of rules, a new set of standards, a new and improved society which, although they claim will be more tolerant, more sensitive and more true to themselves, is anything but that.

As in the famous line of the film, “The Wizard of Oz,” – the answer has always been right in your own backyard, and if it’s not there, it never was to begin with.

True contentment comes from finding peace within yourself and not from the latest piece of celebrity gossip, coveted social profile or achieving that big promotion because you managed to find a clever way to “look better” than everyone else.

True contentment also comes from being secure enough within yourself so that you can promote others, show them just how important they are to you and be the person that makes life worth living for them.  Personal happiness comes from helping others more than yourself.  It comes from hard work, being loyal to others and telling the truth even if it means accepting the unpleasant consequences that come with it.  It comes from complimenting those around you, taking notice of their achievements, laughing and crying with them and, most of all, spending quality time with them.

Satisfying relationships come when you are able to disagree agreeably, recognize each other’s differences but also, at the same time, appreciate the mutual respect that can still be had for one another.

My generation got pleasure from, what today, would be viewed as the insignificant.  Humor and music played a big role in our development as did family celebrations and national holidays.  We found joy in what may now be defined as the mundane, but, again, you can’t argue with what worked.

Today’s younger generation can definitely learn a lot of lessons and draw some needed conclusions to the real meaning of life from their older counterparts.  If you’re a young person who is not particularly happy or fulfilled, maybe you should find your mirror opposite and be open enough to glean what you can from them, because you may find that it’s a way better alternative to the Kardashians, Facebook, Instagram and The Bachelor!

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.