In contrast to my last five or ten posts, all of which were desultory criticisms of religious belief and inclinations, this one is really bad. It’s all about me, or worse yet, men approaching 40.
In an unusually intense conversation earlier tonight with someone more comfortable with Earth than I am, it was suggested (don’t you love the passive voice?) that I was having a “midlife crisis.”
As usual, I balked at this not so much because of the implications but because of my lack of understanding. I know there is no hard-fast definition of “mid-life crisis,” but it appears fair to ask others for their opinions on the matter. (I refuse to consult Wikipedia just yet.)
See, I always thought this appellation was reserved for men (and men only) approaching 50 who had achieved marriage and career status and had become bored or disillusioned with their real or perceived path in life. And wanted really flashy cars, or a new chick. Put differently, a version of the “empty-nest syndrome” as applied to men, ordinarily not the chief caregivers in the family. Something therefore only applicable to those enjoying a certain SES and relationship status and therefore applicable to people other than, well, me.
Some background: I am unmarried and have had no distinct career path, although I have recently acquired a full-time job in the field I claim as my favorite. I have a bachelor’s degree in physics and attempted a medical degree, performing admirably until I fucked that up in ways not quite worth discussing here. So I was in grad school until I was 27 or so.
Much of my reason for not finding a permanent mate is rooted in rank irresponsibility, lassitude, or other factors which would rightfully give any sane potential mate serious pause; I have also used distance running–something I at which at was always decent (I came within minutes of qualifying for my country’s Olympic Team Trials in) but never great at. I also drank a lot. In the meantime, I was able to carve out a marginal living as a freelance writer. At the same time, I was often if not usually involved in a serious romantic relationship.
These matters were always wonderfully complimentary: As a running bum,I had an excuse for rarely securing full-time employment. Whoever I met along the way was always aware of this and could hence be considered fully apprised–yet there was always someone like that, and I tried, usually to little avail, to treat her well.
So here I am in the year of my 40th birthday having forsaken two major goals. Running is something I do “for my head,” but long gone are the 100-mile training weeks aimed at this or that competitive event. Thanks to other recent events, I will not be attempting to take any more relationship hostages anytime soon. In fact, were anyone in my small circle of friends inclined to “set me up” with someone, I would probably have to deliver a forceful roundhouse punch to said person’s face. Such arrangements, however contrived, usually turn out to be a bad idea.
Most recently I’ve faced the prospect of giving up on two major areas of my life. It shouldn’t seem like a big deal to scale back one’s running to the recreational level or (some might disagree here) decide that relationships are simply a bad idea, best left to those who feel they can handle them. At the same time, this leaves a gap in my outlook, and it doesn’t help that this comes at a time when I am seeing gray hairs and other evidences of a body that will eventually fail altogether.
The notion of pouring more into work–and I have a lot of it–seems goofy at this point, as it delivers an unusual amount of money but little in the way of psycho-emotional returns. I keep falling behind on it. And I can’t envision taking on the idea of traditional hobbies of men my age, whatever they are. Come to think of it, I’m only making fun of myself–what else is there?
I start volunteering at an animal shelter soon. That’s a start, I guess, but doesn’t seem to tap into whatever it is I am saying here.
By the way, mockery is appreciated at least as much as “advice” here. I’m just casting bullshit out there as a foil to the incessant religion-knocking stuff I’ve indulged in lately. So don’t feel compelled to give advice.