So I was at a good friend's birthday party yesterday (he's fifty-seven) and he says to me:
"You know Bill* over at Warners*? He got cut loose from his executive job last Wednesday, after thirty-six years with the studio ..."
I've known Bill for decades. He's been a valued employee for as long as I can remember, with lots of skill, all-around savvy and institutional memory crammed into his head. I saw him a week ago and chatted with him briefly; Bill was as enthusiastic and upbeat as ever. He gave no inkling to me that this was coming. (He probably had no inkling.)
But you know what? My jaw didn't drop open in stunned disbelief when I heard the news. I just snorted, shook my head and muttered, "You don't say ..."
I bring Bill up here because he had wrinkles and gray hair. And the reality of the 21st century workplace is, if you work for one of our fine conglomerates and you are over fifty, no matter who you are, you have no job security. The pervasive attitude is, "So what did you do for me last Tuesday?" And if last Tuesday is found wanting, then it's goodbye, good luck and drive safely.
(And yes, the savvy among you will say "There's no job security under fifty, either," and you're right. But the attrition is somewhat lower in the younger age brackets because the crow's feet and receding hairlines are less pronounced. And support groups are still in place.)
None of this is news to animation workers. At the same party, I had a fifty-six-year-old artist who I've also known for decades come up to me and whisper, "You know, I've got thirty years in the business, but I don't think I'm going to get the other six I need to retire. I've hit a wall."
He, too, has gray hair and wrinkles.
I've harped on this before, and it's probably getting tiresome, but I reiterate the old lecture anyway: There is no workable strategy to avoid aging, but there are ways for you to avoid catastrophe in your fifth decade when you're sailing along and suddenly hit an air pocket. Here (yet again) they are:
Save your damn money. If you're making twelve hundred bucks a week, find a way to get by on a thousand.
If you're on the brink of divorce, find a way to patch things up, because the next spouse you hook up with is going to be pretty similar to the current one you're jettisoning, and you'll have a lot more money sticking together.
Work (if at all possible) someplace that provides you with a pension. You'll need it later.
Piss off as few people as you can. You walk over them now, they'll walk over you in 2013. (Which is another way of saying "If you help minimize other people's suffering, they might assist in minimizing yours.")
Improve your chops. Then improve your chops again. You'll stay more relevant.
Save your damn money.
Lastly, don't take the day-to-day crapola too seriously; you're not going to achieve all your goals but you can be happy anyway. As my smart-ass teen-aged son is fond of telling me:
Life's a journey, and we're all headed to the same place.
* Incorrect names, in case you're wondering. But the story is true.