Life is like a full-time job. When you’re born and start showing signs of intelligence, is when you’re recruited. Intelligence – the only thing you’ll be interviewed on. Age 4. You’re handed a schedule of job responsibilities right at the outset. Like a newbie at a job, you’re all excited. You set up your machine, your email, your bookmarks on your machine. And then you have to work toward the set of responsibilities you have an unspoken agreement about. You go through your induction and initial training period – you get an education. Go to college and acquire communication + project management skills. Your first homework assignment is your first deliverable. Every expectation is already in place and you march on with the supreme confidence of going in the right direction. You get a graduate degree, like winning an award or recognition at work. And you keep delivering, performing, growing in supreme confidence, and then you move on to your Masters degree or next high paying job. So when you finally take on a job, you’re really being put to test about your capabilities. You’re proving you understood every little piece of instruction passed on to you in your alma mater. And you march on. Soon enough life gives you other forms of recognition – your car, your spouse, etc.
Eventually you reach a stage where every little piece of instruction you studied has been put to the test, you’ve passed, you’ve scored well most of the times and sometimes you haven’t. But overall you did well. At this stage is when you start settling down (at least you’re supposed to). And then you’re confronted with the dreadful “What next?”
At my current job, I am supposed to submit a Learning Plan every 6 months. What will I study next to prove myself an asset to the company and its customers? Which certification will I acquire? Which courseware will I adopt to enhance my skillset? But when it comes to life – suddenly you have a blank slate already wiped clean and expecting meaningful jottings from the supremely accomplished yours truly. And you’re going – what the fuck?
After deploying all your skills, your learnings, erasing everything inessential you learned and reinforcing everything essential to your everyday banality, you suddenly find yourself molded into a specialized monkey engineered and sculpted to spin out the best of whatever it is that you’ve been spinning. You’ve proved your worth. To society, to the first year of your life-job (30 years). And now you’re confronted with you.
And you wonder …. Do I like my job? Does it add any value? To me or my surroundings? In the bigger picture, my pixel, what the fuck is it contributing? Am I even a pixel yet or a micro-pixel on an LCD screen? Am I shining bright enough or is my circuit broken?
Have I read all the right books? Have I read all the poetry that was supposed to charm me into the bourgeois intelligentia? Have I decorated the right home in the right colors with the right furniture yet. Should I have had babies by now? Have I been to every bar/restaurant/and mom&pop specialty restaurant that boasts the best hand cut custard pie?
But mostly you wonder – where the f is the roadmap I had a while ago?
The mid-life crisis, my friends, has announced its arrival then. It’s being lost. It’s being up against a really really really blank wall – that you either dig through or draw on without any tools. The time has come to build a whole new set of tools and to look up from the cubicle and beyond the afternoon pedicure luxury you grant yourself.
A set of knee jerk reactions arise – from a mindboggling array of ideas that seemingly have no relationship with each other but sound convincingly profound paths to deep dive into, but after due consideration all of them seem equally . Your friend gets a raise with a company car and business class benefits and you think to yourself I have to get myself a new job! Or when a friend plans a Europe vacation – and you wonder why have you never been to Europe or Papua New Guinea yet? Another friend goes and joins an art college while her husband studies theoretical physics and mathematics – taking a 2 year sabbatical from work – and another couple ups and sells everything they own to travel the full country on a bike. Surely I must find my answers in the Himalayas? Yet another spectrum of people go have children. Decorate their new house, and buy that 1000 inch television.
And after a while you realize – uh uh uh – not really. Not my thing. But what is really “my”coping mechanism for “my”mid-life crisis?
And that is the first hint of what you’re up against. The “my” – the “me” – the real “I” in the “I”.
What you never had to confront in the era of roadmaps. Because whoever filed your flight plan for your first 30 years assumed unconditional succumbing to the plan. Immersion. Total. Non-questioning. The confident march of the supremely self-righteous. And you did. Until that person wielding that invisible fist disappears and a tougher task master appears – your own inner self that has been succumbing, trudging, pulling forward, and in Americanese “taking the garbage out”on time.
When this mirage of the “self-righteous on account of an ulterior “ crumbles. You are forced to confront yourself. That my friends is the real mid-year appraisal – where you answer to your “real” manager (you) – about what you like about your job (life), and what you don’t like about it, and what next?. That my friends is the real mid-life crisis. And it is safe to assume – mine has arrived. And it sure as hell doesn’t feel good one teeny weeny bit.