In lieu of a mid-life crisis

I'm 40 this year (not yet, I hasten to add). Yes, I know it's no big deal it's a round number, that's just human preference for powers of 10. Anyway, it does seem like some kind of milestone in my life, for whatever reasons. And as I have a generally introspective mind, and a good dose of self-absorption, and this is my blog, I'm going to write a few notes about it.

Not sure what got me started down this path, but yesterday I dug out a load of old school books, note books, board game designs, roleplaying game campaign books, poetry, short stories - it's all still out there in the garage. But what struck me, rather than "where did all my dreams go? what am I doing with my life?", the usual things accompanying the average mid-life crisis, I found myself thinking "actually, I'm pretty much the same person I was when I was 12; I haven't really changed much; I still believe the same things". I mentioned this to Nicola (my wife) and she said something like "that's one thing you always are: consistent, stable, level-headed". Though she made it sound better than that: I'm paraphrasing.

So, where is my evidence for this. Cue quotations from old school books etc.:

"There is not anybody that I would really like to be, but if I had to be someone else, I think it would be Arthur C. Clarke...I would not like to be him because of the mysteries he has investigated but because of his great output of short stories and books..." (June 22nd 1982; still love science fiction, would love to be a great SF writer, but realise that probably that's not my calling)

"There are three things I would change in the world if I became, as it were, a 'supreme dictator'. 1. Banning of vivisection: all animals should be treated as part of life, and if they are destroyed or harmed we would be affecting our future lives... 2. Freedom of speech: I would give everybody in the world the freedom to speak how they wish... 3. Nuclear war: I would try to stop the production of nuclear weapons." (December 15th c. 1983; basically I was a hippie then and I still am; I think that's quite forward thinking for someone living in a provincial backwater in the early 1980s - probably my mum's influence)

There's really no point going on about achievements since then etc.; you can read my about page to find out what I've done with myself all this time. I don't think I'll ever "do enough" to say I've finished.

More important, though, are things which have meant a lot to me over the past few months. These are the kind of things we're living for:

  • Sledging in the local park with Madeleine (my daughter) on Christmas Eve 2009. This was just the most wonderful day for me: exhilirating, laughing with my daughter, expectations of Christmas the next day, looking forward to warming up in the cafe for lunch. I'll treasure this one for a long time.
  • How Joel (my son) loves to throw himself at me, fling his arms around me, wrestle me, nestle into my neck, calls me "my daddy"; his carefree grin as he ambles around the garden looking for interesting things.
  • Gaming night with Nicola (my wife): it's one time in the week when we sit down together, just the two of us, and get a chance to do nothing but spend time together, chat, have a drink. Sometimes we're both too knackered, but most Sunday nights, that's what we do. Carcassonne and Dominion are our current arenas. It's also great working at home, as we get to see each other a bit more and meet for lunch once a week in the local cafe. Good to be together.
  • Paul (my current manager) having the faith in me to persuade me to work at Intel, when I was at a really low point, virtually no self confidence, no self belief, and practically telling him I couldn't do the job. He was right, and I was wrong. It's taken me a while to build myself up again, but I finally feel like I'm getting into my stride and being useful.
  • Rediscovering my love of SF. I made a concerted effort this year to read more, and have been having a great time doing so. I've read quite a lot of classic SF this year, and have made some good discoveries (Grass by Sherri S. Tepper is my current one, which is really good, and actually brought tears to my eyes). I'm convinced reading fiction, great fiction, makes me a better person.
  • Writing more music and releasing an album. The release will happen in the next few weeks, and it's going to be very small (it's a tiny net label), but I'm really pleased and grateful someone else (Kevin Busby) has enough faith in my music enough to put their name to it.

While digging around, I also found this rather excellent (and very 1980s and corny, obviously around the time of Close Encounters) birthday card from my family; inside it says "HOPE YOUR BIRTHDAY IS OUT OF THIS WORLD!" There's also some of my mum's handwriting: "To Elliot, lots of love Mum, Dad, Dean & Chloë" (she always put the umlaut on Chloe). Finding some of her writing, that made me a bit sad (she died a few years ago of cancer). Here's the picture, anyway:

(Looking at this now, the sentimental part of me suddenly finds this picture quite fitting as a visual metaphor for what it's like to grow up...)

No earth-shattering revelation to come to, no character progression. But perhaps that is my point. What's important is knowing who you are, and doing things which make you (and those around you) feel good.

Comments

This is a great post! My

This is a great post! My husband turned 40 in March of this year and for some reason each time we reach a new decade, we turn introspective :) Thanks for sharing, it makes the rest of us feel more 'normal' to know others go through the same thing.

Also I am about to fulfill

Also I am about to fulfill 40. I feel that I do not have the forces to follow, and that I have committed many errors in my life. Thanks for the example, I hope to be able to rise in the morning and continue ahead!

getting close to 40 too

Hi Elliot
I always enjoy reading your somewhat bizzare blog posts, and at 38 I can see why you wrote this !
Keep them coming.
A

Very good read

I enjoyed reading your post and I'll be coming back to this blog. And the picture you posted is indeed very fitting.

Great post

Hi Elliot,

Hope you are well and good to see you blogging again :) I'm not far behind you on the age front and can certainly relate to what you wrote. My 39th is next week and the dread of 40 is always playing on my mind in relation to where I am going in life, both personally and professionally.

Would be great to catch up sometime. Maybe when some of the other ex-Talisians get together in Birmingham next time?

All the best,

Andrew

Thanks!

Thanks for this moving post, for some reason it does talk to me!

I'm glad it did. I was in

I'm glad it did. I was in two minds about writing it: a bit self-indulgent, a bit sentimental. But often I write these things, thinking about my children reading them in the future, so they can know what I thought about things and who I was. Things I can't really know about my mum, because she never wrote them down, and I never really asked once I was old enough to understand.