This is adapted from a Twitter thread I posted earlier today, and a thought that occurred to me yesterday while I was pulling my socks on.
I’m so buff I had my midlife crisis on the cross-trainer this morning. I’m not kidding, it was profound AF. Except that I think Basement Jaxx were playing in my headphones when it took hold.
Note: it's not a midlife crisis. I'm too young to have one and I can't drive so sports cars are out, but just go with me on this... I'm building to a thing.
It started when I realised that the song Bohemian Like You is 19 years old, and the weird and kooky things and behaviours itemised in it are basically just part of life for millennials and generation Z-ers.
If you dig on vegan food
Well come over to my work, I'll have 'em
cook you something that you really love
That one doesn't need any parsing. It's not weird to be a vegan anymore. I mean, it is 😉, but y'know, it's completely acceptable behaviour among polite society and nothing to be ashamed about.
Wait, who's that guy, just hangin' at your pad?
He's lookin' kinda bummed; yeah, you broke up? That's too bad
I guess it's fair if he always pays the rent
And he doesn't get bent about sleepin' on the couch when I'm there
I feel like that one needs a looksee. I mean, who can afford their own place anymore? Only lucky fools like me who got in just before the housing market exploded. What is cool and bohemian for late Generation X is just life for most people in their 20s and 30s now.
I’m also part of a group in which I’m the eldest, and while no one has made me feel old on purpose, man oh man have I become aware just how out of touch I am! Like, I was never in touch or a hep cat, but now even my ironic references to youth slang are a decade old (phrases like "hep cat" notwithstanding).
This has never bothered me, and I’m not sad about it now, but recent events have led me to think about late starts in life and how much time there isn’t. I’m closer to 40 than 30, and most of my best friends are in or have just hit their 40s.
40 isn’t old, not even in a “hey, you’re not that old” kind of way. It's actually an age I'm sort of looking forward to, but 40 leads to 50 and so on, and at some point I start thinking "I don’t mind the thought of getting older. I just feel like life hasn’t started yet". Anyone else get that? Or is it just me and John?
It's like I've spent my post-university years waiting. But for what? And also, by whose metric have I not started life?
Six years ago I was at my desk at work, crying into my keyboard because of a video I was editing, that made me feel every one of the feelings. Had 2019 Mark come to me and given me an idea of what I'd do in the following years, I'd have dried my eyes a lot quicker. Here's a taste:
- I met my second nephew for the first time
- I saw the Statue of Liberty and walked through Central Park
- I ate steak tartare in Berlin
- I spoke at conferences in Cardiff, Warsaw and Florence
- I recorded an EP of original, serious songs, performed a comedy show in an actual theatre and joined two improv comedy teams
- I met my musical hero
- I now make my living off my own creation
For a man who considers that he's not started life or that he's scared of basically everything, that's not too shabby.
So I stand at the threshold of a potential new thing. Maybe. Lots to work out yet, much of which is out of my hands, but I feel like I might be getting the Call to Adventure from life. A couple of weeks ago that was kinda fun and novel, and now it’s exciting but there’s a big block of Adulting to deal with, and some demon-wrestling to do. And I guess I realise now that I’ve perhaps been waiting for that big hand of God from the old Lottery ads to touch me on the shoulder and make me an Adult.
But it turns out that that’s something you choose for yourself. It's your own Excalibur that you pull out of the stone; no-one can bestow it on you. Now I only wish I’d pulled it out sooner... as it were.
I’m a thoughtful person – often too much for too long -- but this morning has been unusually contemplative, rather than stoically logical or overly-emotional. I feel like I may have had a moment of clarity which I can’t and won’t talk about — partially ‘cos I don’t know if I just made it up to help things make sense, or if it's actually how I feel — but taking hold of the idea suddenly made things a bit easier.
And while I can't go into details, I think the gist is “you were scared of a thing and you’re right to be, but you don’t have to face it alone, and you need to face it before you’re too old to fully enjoy it.” Something like that.
So to call this whole thing a “midlife crisis” is
- overplaying it for dramatic/comic effect,
- inaccurate as it feels more hopeful than critical,
- pessimistic because I’m taking steps to ensure I live for more than another 36 years.
But there it is. My box of nonsense has been blown wide open this past six weeks – not by one specific event, but by lots of little realisations and moments – in such a good and exciting and terrifying and incredible way, and it’s not showing any signs of stopping.
It could be an interesting few months for me, and possibly for those close to me (although I hope not too interesting). It won't be easy, and it often won't be fun. But at some point, I think, it just might be amazing.
And that brings me to my sock thought. I like the phrase "it just might be amazing" because it helps counteract a sense of inertia I know I sometimes feel, and I reckon others do too. It's easy to think a new experience might be scary or end in embarrassment or the loss of a limb. And while that might be true, it just might also be amazing.
Whether it's meeting a friend you've not seen for years and you're worried you won't click, or pondering whether to buy those gig tickets or ask someone out. It might end in disaster. But it just might be amazing.