Midlife Crisis?

Back on New Years Eve for our family’s party, we all looked back at what we’d done the past decade and where we thought we’d be a decade from now. We started with MC, who hadn’t even been here for the whole decade. “Coming into existence” is a pretty big accomplishment, and by the end of the next decade, she’ll be dating and in high school. DC went from 1 to 11 (take that, Spinal Tap!), and she’ll be in college, possibly returned from a mission by the end of this next decade. Tomas was in elementary school, and now he’s a sophomore. Within a decade he’ll be doing all sorts of huge things. College. Mission. Maybe even married. He could be a father by the end of the decade.

Then we came to me. I got a fair bit done this last decade, no doubt. Several promotions. MLA President. Published my first novel (and my second!). There was lots to look back on and feel good about. When I turned my focus on what lay ahead, however . . .

“Ten years from now, I think I’ll be doing pretty much what I’m doing now. Director of the library. Writing books on the side. And that’s about it.”

Somehow it felt pretty depressing to say that, and it’s a statement that’s stuck with me ever since we discussed it. On the one hand, it’s nothing to be too upset about. I love my life, and I think I’ve got a great thing going out here in Maine. But on the other hand, it all feels so . . . set. Like my kids are going to be out doing interesting exciting things, and I’m just going to Groundhog Day my way through life. I love the movie, but the thought of living it for the next ten years isn’t the rosiest thought I’ve had recently.

This isn’t supposed to be a complainy post. But at the same time, I guess I can relate in many ways to what people feel when they hit their midlife crisis. You go from all sorts of exciting things. Big, huge changes. And then it’s just keep on trucking, year after year. You start to look at things you could do to really shake things up. Get a different job? Switch career paths? Go live in a yurt?

For the last several months, I’ve just felt a bit at sea whenever I’ve had downtime and nothing to think about. I’ve felt like a lot of what I’ve been doing is just . . . stuff I’ve done before. I’ve tried to figure out why that is. Am I burned out? Depressed? I don’t have any real answers, other than this observation about remembering that New Years Eve discussion.

I like to challenge myself. I feel best when I’m actively involved solving problems. I like playing games that make me think. I’d rather play a new game with a new ruleset to figure out than to play a game I’ve played time and time again. When I’m writing, I write books that are significantly different from books I’ve written before, each time. When I get to the point that I feel like I know what’s coming and how to handle it too well, I can get bored and lose interest. That’s not a good thing, but it’s something I know about myself.

The trick for me, then, is to find new ways to reach. I don’t feel like the same old same old as a writer. I feel like there are still many ways I can become better and improve. How do I take that same feeling and apply it in other areas of my life? At work, or at home, or with my hobbies. I tend to think if I set good goals, I can get over this speed bump, but some of the problem is at times I don’t even really feel like meeting my goals. (That’s very out of character for me.)

I think the biggest helpful thought I’ve had in dealing with this right now is something I’ve learned writing books. The middle is always the hardest part of just about anything. Beginnings are full of discovery and excitement. Endings are thrilling and flashy. But the middle of a story is what makes or breaks a book. You get through that easy beginning and find out just what sort of a book you’re dealing with. And in order to have a flashy ending, it’s key that the middle is all done just right. You don’t get an emotional oomph at the end without a whole ton of work in that middle. Actually writing the middle is really tough, though. It’s hard to tell where you are at times. Hard to feel like you’re making progress. But if you bear down and push forward, you hit a point where it all starts popping again.

That’s me right now. I see no reason to make any wild changes. Don’t look to see me riding a Harley any time soon, for instance. But I wanted to try and get my thoughts down, and I’d be curious to hear what other people have experienced like this, and how they handled it. Thanks for reading!


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