It is Wednesday May 25th, 2022, the day before my 45th birthday.
As I see that birthday number I’ve just written, I’m put into a state of shock. How can I possibly be turning 45? That is old and old is not something I thought I’d ever become. To the young, youth is eternal. If it isn’t then old age is so far away it isn’t even worth considering. Yet here I am on my porch swing with my laptop staring at a number that says 45. I feel as though reality must have stopped and I’ve crossed over into the surreal or am hallucinating.
I feel as though I should be 38 or possibly 39, definitely not 45. In my 30s’ I still felt I was still hanging on to youth. I had children but I was a young parent and so no need to be concerned, “youthfulness” had yet to depart. But with my son soon to be a teenager I can no longer hold on to even a shred of the idea that I’m young. It’s over, gone, the youth train left the station a long time ago.
At this age I also have the feeling that I should have achieved my goals long ago. In younger years there is always more time, no rush, the accomplishments will come. But at 45 it feel as though I can no longer look forward but have to stop and ask “Did I achieve anything?” I start to feel a tinge of depression as I see very young colleagues getting promoted to managers or think of others who rose much higher than I have and at younger ages. This thought wants to throw me into the deepest, darkest depression until one shining revelation occurs and saves me from the gloom.
I’ve not had to work in an office for the past 13 years and have enjoyed what I do. This has allowed me to be very close to my wife and kids and form an abundance of wonderful experiences with them. Through my own experience, I learned that those who have climbed the latter work really hard to do so, usually spend most of their time in an office, and if not, sacrifice family time and all other pursuits in order to advance. They have put career advancement and work over all else which, is what society directs us to do. There is talk of “work, life balance” but even in companies where they actually practice this instead of the usual lip service the ratio is still roughy 8 hours work to 3 family per day.
Society tells us our goal is to climb the corporate ladder, to make more money. When I was young I rejected this as many youthful idealists do. But now that the game has been played I’m forced to look and see if I’ve won or not and indeed, must face the question, what do I consider winning? Am I disappointed that I do not have a VP title next to my name? Well, if I’m being truthful with myself and considering this deeply, my answer is having a VP title would be nice as far as others see me, but I don’t actually want to be a VP. Life is fleeting and I’d prefer to have more experiences outside of the work environment.
As I write these words they seem to be a light chasing away that dark voice telling me I should have accomplished more in the corporate world. It is only in the corporate world that I have this thought. I’m still very proud of my travels, learning, languages, karate and especially family. Here I am, on a porch swing during a workday overlooking the Pacific ocean. I really cannot complain. Writing is wonderful therapy as I’ve been in a depressed state for months. Why didn’t I write sooner? I also have a treasure that may be something only a few hundred in the entire world have: a journal of my very own life that spans over thirty years.
This blog is the closest thing to time travel. When I read my entries I’m not only remembering the past but can also be transported there mentally. That is to say if I read the entry slowly and let the words penetrate deeply, I can resurrect my mindset of that time which is such a joy. Then, when I look back and my current brain says I should have done this or should have done that, my youthful mindset returns and I understand exactly what I was thinking at the time. It really is something fantastical.
In keeping a journal over decades I become aware of large shifts in my mindset and another one of these has occurred over the past two years. I’m now more introspective and prefer a quiet life than in trying to keep up with everyone and everything. I stopped using Facebook over a year ago. I do miss keeping in touch but the reality is that the quality of relationship maintenance on that platform is very poor.
Actually, it was detrimental in some aspects and led to the deterioration of some friendships as well. Society and technology is changing too fast and it would probably be better not to be in a virtual coliseum yelling out every single thought and opinion for all to hear often several times a day. The majority of posts seem to be between “humblebrags” requests for attention to feed the well documented dopamine-seeking reward loop or shouting something about politics. As a person who has always been enthralled by technology I am able to understand when it needs to be turned off.
In other news I caught COVID from a work trip I took recently. For my future self or relatives reading this decades from now let me tell you that our society receives an F when it comes to handling pandemics. What a bungled response and the person to blame is squarely on former President Trump and his moronic followers. At two years in society has pretty much just thrown in the towel and so we’ll just bungle ourselves the rest of the way through.
COVID for me was like the flu. Fever, violent shivering, night sweats and so on. I did experience an acute pain in my upper respiratory system when coughing but that was only for an evening and gone the next day. It wasn’t pleasant, especially since I really hadn’t been sick for over two years due to pandemic precautions. I’m very much on the mend and in a sense am happy that my body has experienced and dealt with the live virus. It doesn’t seem we’re able to vaccinate our way out of this mess completely. It is starting to look as though one would have to get a vaccine every three months and even then isn’t 100% effective. I’ve had my vaccine, I’ve had the real virus, and since my body is now familiar with it, I should at least be protected from severe illness or death right? Well, let’s hope so.
Continuing with my mentality shift, I’ve cut out drinking coffee and pared back the wine very much. I simply realized that morning coffee made me anxious and I couldn’t remember the last time I hadn’t been highly caffeinated in the morning. That morning routine of hyping myself up with the drug of caffeine makes me think of American society in general. Our society is not one of calmness, of introspection. No, it is one of constant distraction, unrelenting accumulation and the constant message that we need more. People would burn themselves out and so the antidote for most is a Sunday spent in church where people are given their sedative only to go back onto the treadmill the following Monday.
But look at the state of society and the world around us. Mass shootings everywhere, war, a completely polarized USA, inflation, and sense that everything is falling apart. And the sedative is made up superstitious religion where the question if much of it has done more harm than good to humanity is gaining serious traction.
At forty-five I have lost hope in humanity. Through my travels and learning it is plain to see we as a species just are not wise enough to get too far. The world is driven by greed and this greed will always lead to conflict. We may be on the verge of WWIII right now and if that weren’t bad enough seem to be getting continually gut-punched with one more unforeseen thing. Looking at history it is all war broken up by short periods of peace. That peace is a house of cards that gets taller and taller until it all falls down again. Only now the nukes are everywhere so it is really only a matter of time before they are used.
In writing that I know I sound like like a doomer but to me that is the reality that most don’t want to face and so the alternative is to waive flags, go see sports games and try to ignore the path the world is on.
One blow after another, that is what the past few years have been and it is wearing me down. But I have grit, a deep understanding of my own mindset and know how to pull myself out of the gloom. It is not through any substance or distraction. Instead it is to appreciate the present. I am here right now on my 45th year of life. I think of those very deserving people who never made it this far, especially those young boys in previous wars such as WWII and Vietnam. I look at my grandfathers WWII camp graduation picture and know many of them didn’t live much longer. Having lived in Vietnam I think of boys from my mother’s coal mining hometown who perished there. So when put into this context I have nothing to be sad or gloomy about.
When taken as a whole, my life experience has been wonderful.