The Benefits Of A Middle Age Crisis


A real crisis.

One of the saddest phrases I have ever heard is “I used to be…”

The boys and I have used this more times than I care to like in the wrong sorts of context.

When I hear “I used to be” I want it to be about a negative that has turned into a positive. “I used to be 25 pounds heavier” or “I used to be the mail room guy and now I am the Vice President.”

Except it seems to be more like “I used to be happier” or “I used to be a high flier” and that just chaps my hide because we are not old enough to sound so freaking miserable.

I suppose it bothers me because I understand it more than I want to. I was the high flier. If you go back and look at the mid to late nineties my career explodes. I didn’t double my income, I more than quadrupled it and I did it legally.

Got married, became a father, bought a house, went on trips and still had money in the bank.

Life Can Humble You

Go back twenty or twenty-five years and show the younger version of me what happened in the years that follow and he’ll go from being very happy to being shocked and dumb founded. He would never believe some of the crap that followed.

Maybe he was naive, I don’t know once you have knowledge you can’t simply excise it from your brain.

It is hard to think about some of these things and even harder to discuss it. I am naturally guarded and even though time has passed since some of these things took place I am not entirely comfortable talking about it with strangers or with people I know.

Maybe it feels like most of my friends and family didn’t fall out of tree and hit all branches on the way down like I did. Doesn’t really matter and reality is we don’t need to go through all of the details for you to understand there have been some rough spots.

But just for kicks let’s talk about one major moment–the day I had to tell my kids we were moving.

That one hurts.

I lost my job and didn’t have a ton of money in the bank. Scrambled to find new work but all I got was dribs and drabs, bits and pieces. Target, Costco, Sears and a bunch of other retailers turned me down.

Applied for positions loading and unloading trucks but couldn’t get one of those either.

Tired to modify my home loan and went through 18 months of hell with the bank and never got a yes or no, so we made the decision to sell the house.

Made the decision to take control of things as best we could and sold it. Somewhere during the fight to save it I realized the place that I looked it with pride had turned into an albatross around my neck and pride turned to disgust.

The children cried and begged not to be forced to move and asked how I could be so unemotional. I did my best to calm and assure them and to stay calm because if I had let my emotions show it would have been rage.

Not directed at them, not focused at them at all but at the bank and the situation. Would have been different if the bank would have given me a straight answer. Would have been different if the old boss hadn’t screwed things up, but sometimes things happen and you have no control.

 The Benefits Of A Middle Age Crisis

The boys and I are sitting around the table enjoying the California sunshine and laughing about the polar vortex. We are catching up and reminiscing a bit.

They ask me about the job and I talk about how I don’t want to jinx anything but it is my favorite and that I hope things keep going like this. There are so many good things about it and the hardest part is not holding my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop.

That is a gift from the harder times but there are other gifts that I can mention without snark or sarcasm. It forced me to take a hard look at my life and figure out what I need versus what I want.

Probably couldn’t have done some of that earlier because there is no substitute for life experience.  Those moments helped prove my mettle and are a significant part of why every day I make an effort to not be the person who says “I used to be” in any way that isn’t positive.

I haven’t made it all the way through this crisis, got a couple bit hiccups to deal with and some bruises that don’t want to heal, but I’ll get there.

This isn’t something I would recommend or advise everyone do but in the years to come when the kids ask about it I’ll tell them that sometimes a crisis can be a positive thing and I’ll point to now and tell them it is how their dad figured out what he wanted to be when he grew up.

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  1. Alan February 1, 2014 at 4:38 am

    This week, I started reading Scott Adams’ (the Dilbert guy) memoir about how he succeeded at life, often in spite of himself. I read his reaction about how ‘what does not kill you makes you stronger’ and liked it quite a bit. You might, too.

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