42, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 29, 2015, 10:15 PM | comments: 0

My birthday is coming up, and it's an important year for me. If you are a fan of clever British humour and science fiction, you probably get the joke. Even if you aren't, well, you know that there are stages of life that we go through.

In the clinical sense, a midlife crisis is a bad thing involving depression, a lack of happiness, constant questioning of your place in the world, all encouraging poor decisions. I happen to think that there is something like that, but it isn't a crisis as much as a grander sense of self-awareness. The resulting behavior may be similar, because the difference between self-destructive, poor choices and healthy experimentation are very subtle.

For me, the thing that I associate with my age is a great sense of self-awareness, optimism and sense of what I want to be. I have more data about life than I ever have, and that honestly gives me a certain amount of confidence in terms of what to do with it. Most importantly, I think my place in the world is something I can measure by acknowledging the combination of my "birth lottery" (being a white, straight American) and the work that I've done to achieve my relative happiness in life and work. It's a measurement that hopefully guides me in the right mix of humility, confidence and drive.

There isn't some arbitrary date that has me thinking about this either. I've been thinking a lot about how I'm setting up the near term parts of life for a couple of years now, and trying to make deliberate decisions where I can. The career part is a little squishy, in part because the market is always changing, but I've been with a good company for a year and I hope that lasts. Financial stability has been a work in progress for years, and I'm finally seeing it. I'd like to spend more time focusing on my relationship with myself, as well as Diana and Simon. I'm accepting that I have a very sedentary job, and I need to compensate for that.

I have a lot of work to do, and there are changes I still need to make. I need to learn to be more patient with my kid, but not coddle him in a way that will get in the way of his life. I definitely need to stop engaging miserable assholes on the Internet. I don't have the capacity anymore to converse with people who think the world sucks and is getting worse. There's no changing them, and I won't be sucked into their shitvortex. I need to cement the good habits I have in terms of exercise and food. I need to make charity about giving time, and not just money.

Maybe the most important thing I'm learning right now is to not wait to do things. It seems like I can pull the trigger on gigantic life-changing things like moving, but smaller things that may or may not be a big deal end up in the "eventually" column. It's not even an issue of risk, I just put things off. Travel was a big one, but I'm getting there. We're going to Alaska next summer, and we'll figure out how to make Europe work the year after.

So in lieu of a midlife crisis, I'd like to propose a midlife celebration. No binges on hookers and blow for me, but I wouldn't rule out cars, body mods, trips and generally more fun. Mortality does not scare me, but it certainly is a time constraint that I don't want sneaking up on me.


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