I think that I am having a mid-life crisis. I'm a bit disappointed that it doesn't involve affairs with twenty year old men, affairs with twenty year old women, a Corvette convertible, or a journey to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. No, leave it to me to make a mid-life crisis an exercise in psychological masochism and depression, also known as "self-pity."
For the past couple of years, as my birthday nears, this feeling that time is getting short overwhelms me.* Call it a sense of mortality, a sense that only so many years are left and that they pass ever more quickly. You have to do what you are going to do, what you want to do, and do it soon before time runs out. Perhaps this is a sort of "biological clock" that does not involve marriage or babies.
The worst part about this crisis is the compulsion to review my life. How did I get here? Why am I not where I thought that I would be at this point in my life? Where did I go wrong? Why? Am I this way because I was naturally born this way? What about me is learned? How do I keep reinforcing the wrong things in my life? This can be quite discouraging when you realize that, by both nature and nurture, you are a fatalist.**
Fatalism is the one word that recurs in this exercise in self-pity. I know that I am naturally inclined to believe that, no matter how hard you work, no matter what you do, 99% of what happens to you is determined by factors completely outside of your control. This is actually a very stupid way to think because, even if that figure is true, the 1% that is in your control can dramatically affect some of that 99% that is not. In my case, I've become weary and embittered by working so hard on that 1% and feeling like I have so little to show for it. This is a frustrating way to think because this pattern of thought and its resultant actions finally drains joy out of everything I do.
The problem with figuring some of these things out, like what you think if you are very honest with yourself, and how your own behavior is self-defeating, and how you got this way in the first place, is that, ultimately, you begin to realize that this is how you are. In this mid-life crisis, with time feeling so short, I know that this is how I will always be.
That is, I will always be fatalistic and self-defeating if I keep on in this direction. Like I have discovered most of my life, I'm very good at figuring out what not to do and how not to be, usually after the fact. People call these "learning experiences." Have you ever noticed how "learning experiences" are usually negative? The problem with negative learning experiences is that they teach you "wrong." What you really want to know is "right." I know what doesn't work. Now I have to figure out what does work.
That right there, I suppose, is the crisis: not knowing what does work. Not knowing how to take all of these un-focused bits of my life, all of these souvenirs of roads taken that led nowhere, all of these learned lessons, and making them into something in that 1% of my life that is in my control. The crisis is also in not knowing if I would recognize that something and be satisfied with it.
*My birthday is not for another four months, yet. I thought I'd celebrate the festivities early this year.
**I am more than likely using this word without a full understanding of its philosophical meaning. There is probably a better word in philosophy for what I feel; but I haven't those tools of knowledge at this time (I am, howver, open to learning).