Wednesday, 28 May, 2003

Mid-life crisis?

I've spent the last 19 months or so in a very strange place mentally.  Shortly after my fortieth birthday I started re-evaluating my life.  I spent an embarrassing amount of time sitting here in this chair playing one brainless game after another while my mind wandered over the last 20 years, analyzing, evaluating, and critiquing from uncountable angles every memory I could dredge up and comparing where I am now with what I expected of myself when I was 20 years old.  It wasn't pretty.

"All those wonderful dreams," my 20-year-old self said, "and what do you have to show for it?  Five years on a failed marriage, 10 years 'going with the flow' instead of pushing, pushing, pushing to achieve all that I had planned.  Where is the mansion on the private island?  Where is the private plane, the yacht, the international fame?  Where are the crowds of beautiful adoring women?"

My 20-year-old self is idealistic, unforgiving, blunt, foul-mouthed, and damned annoying.  I named him Arrogant Prick.  He pulled out every one of those memories and spat on it, showing me where I went wrong, how he would have done it better, and ground even the good memories into the dirt.  He was terribly disappointed in the shambles I've made of the promising life he had started for me.  He nearly had me convinced that I was a Total Failure.

I don't know why I let the little bastard torture me for so long, and I'm not entirely sure how I managed to tie and gag him.  At some point he was just gone.  The blessed silence that followed was filled with a quieter and friendlier voice who started the process all over again.  But this time we laughed at the funny parts and cried when we were sad, enjoyed the successes, mourned the failures, reviewed the lessons and filed each memory fondly away after picking it up out of the dirt and brushing it off.  I untied the Arrogant Prick too, finally, and filed him away where he belongs as well.  It will do me good to remember him from time to time.

My life, of course, is no more a shambles than I am a total failure.  I'm blessed with a loving wife who is also my best friend and who has put up with my somewhat erratic behavior as I stubbornly fought my way alone through this.  I remain in good standing with my mother and my siblings, due more to their kindness and forgiving natures than to my meager efforts.  I have a small circle of close friends with whom I share many wonderful moments.  In terms of relationships with other people, I am a very wealthy man indeed.  At 20, I had no idea that wealth could be measured in this way.

Materially, I'm not nearly as well off as that 20-year-old dreamer wanted to be by now.  Even so, Debra and I live very comfortably with few worries.  I can't afford to just quit working and spend my time jet-setting around the world, but that's okay.  A life filled with mansions, yachts, lavish parties, and a parade of beautiful, vacant, anonymous women sounds like a whole lot more trouble than fun.  I'm happy, and I think smart enough to know that I'm not deluding myself.

Is this what they call a mid-life crisis?  Whatever it is (or was, I hope), I seem to have made it through the worst of it without having to buy a sports car and ruin my marriage by taking up with a woman half my age.  Although looking back I can see how going that route might seem attractive.

Why am I posting this, probably the most personal note I'm likely ever to post in public?  Because it seems like the thing to do in order to finally close the book on this most difficult part of my life so far.  On now to happier times.