When I was a kid, I rationalized that anyone over forty-five was considered old. Maturity or denial changed that viewpoint somewhere in my early forty’s. Today, my perception of old is when I stop looking forward more than I am looking back, when the future is not as attractive as my past; when memories overpower planning.
I have always wondered what a midlife crisis would look like. I think it’s that moment you are laying in bed on a Sunday morning waiting for the sun to come up and you ask yourself if you have accomplished the goals and dreams of your youth? Did you get the cool red sports car, the fast boat, and the beautiful girl? It’s also a time to ask if you accomplished something of substance, the mark on our history, or a legacy to be remembered, praised and celebrated.
For me, that self-reflection has expanded into months of wonder about the moment when the past will look more attractive than the future, and asking myself what I have left on the table? Have I properly recorded the past that so when that moment comes I can tell these wonderful stories to anyone who will listen, and bestow, if only a taste, some of the knowledge an old man can share with wide-eyed youth around a fire, family BBQ or pub table.
Here is the rub: I let the past start looking more attractive than the future late last year. Self-pity about life choices, health, and career has set me squarely at the tipping point, where future and past collide into plainly surviving; when I spend more time talking about “That time when” rather than planning, preparing and training for “Next time when”. There is no harm in remembering when; in fact it’s a great way to inspire, but inspire what?
Have I exceeded expectations for my life? When you have no expectations, it’s pretty easy to succeed. I remember in grave detail that moment when I sat in the guidance counselor’s office a week before graduation and he asked what I wanted to do with my life? It hit me like a ton of bricks that I had no idea. So here I find myself on the wrong side of forty-five and I still have no idea. I have accomplished so much more than anyone would have expected, certainly myself, in my life. A good father, husband, homeowner, fireman, songwriter and rock band front man, award winning movie producer, entrepreneur, engineer, racecar driver, fabricator, home builder, handyman, caregiver, promoter, published writer, ranch owner, inventor and even writer of a Congressional bill that became a law after I testified in Washington DC. Most recently I became an executive at a 120-year-old industrial revolution company managing a global marketing account. By most accounts I have lived a spectacular life. I have had the sports car, the fast boat and I had been married to the beautiful wife for over 25 years.
So what excuse do I have to consider a midlife crisis? I am not willing to let the past become more attractive than the future, not yet at least. Three months ago, I decided to start making some changes. My Uncle Ed was my inspiration; he has remained athletic after retirement. He seems always busy and enjoying life. He has run ultra marathons, biked, hiked and traveled all over the world. From my view point the key was his health. Without health, it will become difficult to continue ringing every ounce of life out of these trips around the sun. Three months ago, I got a trainer and started going to the gym at 5:00 am. Two months ago, I stopped drinking soda pop. Three weeks ago, I cut alcohol consumption to almost nothing. Beer is gone completely. Two weeks ago I started cutting sugar out of my diet, which has been the hardest thing of all, pretty much it’s water and black coffee now. Caffeine and alcohol was never really the problem with excessive consumption, it was the sugar. I don’t intend to remain sober, but I am certainly not going to be drunk all weekend and every night, remembering the good old days.
What are the things that make me happy? I love my job, but after a lifetime of bouncing between careers, self-employment and leading the conversation, the corporate culture is difficult to navigate. The last 4 years have offered an exceptional opportunity to learn new skills, perfect theories with someone else’s money, and learn how to move hurdles and work with a team. The down side is that when you are self-employed and work long hours, it’s easy to see the results, in financial gain, and when you need a break, you drop off the radar for a week or two every couple months. Corporate culture does not support a sabbatical. I have to find a healthy balance between the two and learn to shut off work now and then.
What am I going to do for an encore? It’s hard to turn the rudder on a big ship. I read somewhere that the rudder is so big on some ships that hydraulics can’t apply enough force to move it while under power. To turn the ship, a smaller rudder is installed in front of the larger rudder. When the small rudder is turned, water is redirected in a manner that forces the rudder to slowly turn the ship. Small changes yield big results. First health, then time is the next deficit.
Manage the time wisely; let’s not waste a second on idle hands. Erase the things that waste time. We went twenty years without cable television. When I moved to Reno, I decided to purchase the cable contract as a bundle with my Internet connection. TV seems an easy distraction to forward momentum. Social media eats time with little reward. Instead of watching what everyone else is doing, I need to limit my intake to a manageable timeline. Last, work-life balance needs improvement. No one ever said they wished they worked more when they are on death’s door. I need to learn to ask for help at work, and set a more realistic expectation. I don’t need to be such an over achiever. What am I trying to prove?
Money, the last of the three things I need to get under control. Consumption and instant satisfaction need to be controlled like eating habits. Cost of ownership, return on investment, either happiness, or financial should be considered. Do I really need this item, what will it do for me? Can I better use this money to go on an adventure and make a memory, achieve a life goal, or leave a legacy? Do I want to make an investment that will pay a dividend, or am I just consuming?
Am I on the wrong side of forty-five? My midlife crisis will be to gain control over my health, time and finance. It’s a crisis if I do not own these three things. Not as exciting as a sports car, or fast boat, but I can certainly rent those if I need a quick fix, since the moment will leave shortly after the purchase. As far as the young girlfriend goes, I am pretty happy with the one I have had for 25 years.
Now on to climbing Mt. Whitney, racing the 50th annual Baja 1000, writing a few books and living life.