In one month, I’ll be crossing that major milestone that causes you to stop and reflect on your life more profoundly. It forces you to look deep into the life that you have lived and to reflect on the life that you have remaining. Many men decide to let go of the “party like its 1999” mentality and trade it in for a more serious and focused version of themselves.
To some, it’s time to buy a sports car or make a major purchase that gives you the feeling of reaching a financially comfortable period in life- a reward of sorts. Some seek deeper meaning in life and begin to look to self-teaching or learning a new language, sport, or hobby. Some decide to start letting go of the glory days and start putting family first and become a better human. Still, others are on a spiritual quest to find deeper meaning in their life. I don’t really have anyone to talk through this rush of emotions that are dominating my thoughts, so I have turned to writing as my outlet.
For the small percentage of the group that already have this “figured out”, just stop reading this blog. For the rest of you, listen up. I don’t have all the answers- in fact, I have none. But I find it reassuring to know that I am not on an island by myself. Many of us out there searching for our purpose in life.
Mid-life crises are a real thing. They take on different personas for each of us but ultimately, we all find ourselves reflecting on what could have been, what should have been, what is, and what will be. It’s time to take life by the reigns and start steering the damn thing.
I have had a touch of each of the aforementioned emotions. I find my dreams in conflict nearly every day. For example, here are some of the thoughts I have regularly.
- I want to be what Jimmy Buffett sings about- An Ernest Hemingway of sorts, relaxing on my sport fishing cruiser in the Florida Straits by day and hosting elaborate dinner parties out under the stars by night.
- I want to be a well read intellectual who writes books and gives lectures (for those who know me, stop laughing- it could happen).
- I want to live as an expat or even a nomad, traveling wherever the wind may blow
- I want to be more masculine by learning to surf, climbing mountains, learning to sail, or harvesting my own fish and oysters, etc.
- I want to buy a yacht and sail the Caribbean. I mean who doesn’t want to do this…
- I want to work as an American diplomat to improve the image of the United States abroad. I have an acute interest in Latin America.
- I want to start a political movement and be a part of real change- revolutionary change in fact- for the next generation.
- I want to live more of a minimalist life (perhaps in tiny house) and not have to depend on the income level that I do today.
As you can see, my dreams tend to dwell among the clouds. To channel my thoughts during my mid life crisis, I have compiled a list of things that I am doing. I use these techniques as outlets to satisfy my desire to explore, learn, and grow as a person.
First, to help organize my thoughts, I have started journaling. You can use any number of journals out there or even do it completely freestyle. I decided to try the Mind Journal. It’s a bit pricey (around $40) but the idea is to train your mind to focus on what is important and develop a habit that you can then continue on your own after completing the pre-prompted journal. It has helped me to focus on the positive and not dwell in the negative.
Additionally, I have set aside time to read. I’m trying to read 2 to 3 books a month depending on the season. For me, it’s much easier to read in the winter (I hate cold weather). I mostly read books on politics and history. I also enjoy self-help books as well as the occasional lighthearted biography just to change it up. I almost never read fiction. Reading is an inexpensive way to learn about different viewpoints and open your mind to new topics and unique ways of presenting information. Podcasts are also a great way to achieve the same outcome.
Start collecting something. I think some men find satisfaction in building a collection of sorts. For those looking for a more minimalistic lifestyle, you may take issue with this one. But I love the sense of purpose behind building a collection that can be rewarding. Some collect big-ticket items such as cars or motorcycles. Some collect baseball cards. I am a collector of “things” as my mother likes to say about me. I collect old books, coins, cowboy hats, trinkets from my travel abroad, and 80’s pop culture. I even have a small collection of autographs of Latin American dictators (more on this later). I know that this stuff will probably be sold on eBay by my children or relatives after I’m gone. These are very specific niche interests but for now, it holds my attention. I like things that tell stories and I enjoy sharing them with people.
Recently I subscribed to skillshare (www.skillshare.com). It’s a great resource to learn skills from your peers on a variety of subjects. I plan to use it to learn DSLR photography, the art of conducting interviews, and web development. This is a great way to get some self-satisfaction out of learning a skill or hobby that may seem too daunting at first. Having someone break down the basics in an easy to understand way can make all the difference.
Find meaning in giving. I love this one and I don’t do enough of it. After doing my taxes this year, I discovered just how little I was giving back. I’m ready to let go of some of the selfishness that I had in my 30’s and start identifying projects or non-profits that I want to be a part of. For me, I am currently looking at UNICEF, the Museum of Appalachia (a local museum that is dedicated to the preservation of Appalachian artifacts and culture), as well as Junior Achievement (my wife’s nonprofit). I also want to get more involved with local food pantries/clothing closets. Giving back is one of the single best ways to find fulfillment.
Friends, It’s okay to not have your life fully mapped out at this juncture. I like to take things in stride. I’m trying to organize around smaller bundles of time. Rather than thinking about my legacy, I’m considering life for the next 12 months. What do I want to accomplish? I’ve started setting monthly and even daily goals that align with the 12-month goal(s). I’m trying to be more realistic. I didn’t get a book published before turning 40. I didn’t make all 50 states before turning 40 (I’ll finally be hitting up #50 in May- 2 months late of my goal). And, I’m not debt-free. Alas, I have failed. Or have I? I’ve fulfilled so many other things. I have had a successful career, built a beautiful home that I absolutely love, and traveled more than I thought possible for a small-town boy. Still, I think, if I’m not moving forward, I’m falling behind.
I just finished reading the autobiography of Jon Secada, a Cuban American immigrant, and a successful Latin American pop star. There was a line in his book that I underlined because it hit me like a ton of bricks. He said “Happiness is never permanent. It is fleeting. Enjoy it while you can and find it where you can.”