I’m about to turn 40. Of course I’ve known about it for quite a while. Obviously. It hasn’t exactly crept up on me. It’s been a regular source of conversation, mostly amongst my family members which means having their eldest son/grandson/nephew turning ‘that age’ is affecting them maybe more than it’s affecting me. So it’s not going to be a surprise getting up on the hallowed morning to find that I’ve passed another road marker on life’s relentless march towards the final scene. (How dreadfully morbid.)
We’ve all been talking about it for so long in fact that I’ve pretty much considered myself 40 even before I am. ‘How you feeling about it?’ ‘Oh, the big Four Oh. You must be dreading it’ etc etc. Honest answer is that I’m not really feeling anything about it. Just another day. No feelings of dread. No horror. No wild plans to buy a sports car or trade my wife in for a younger model. She’s got no fears on either of those scores although we did watch the movie First Wives’ Club recently with the kids. Was that a subtle warning from Mrs. H or did I choose it subconsciously as a self-warning myself? That will have to remain one of life’s unanswered mysteries I fear. Point taken either way.
I wrote my newsletter to the Simple Analytical mailing list this week about New Years’ Resolutions. One of the points I wanted to get across was that change in any arena is always down to ourselves alone. I told the list about my own fitness journey, starting as a desk-bound lazy slob in my 20s and seeing out my 30s in the strongest, fittest shape I’ve ever been in. I’m not going to start running Ultras or doing an Iron Man but for a c.40 year old who works at a computer, I’m much happier now in my physical place than I ever was before in my adult life.
Brian Clark of Copyblogger fame writes a weekly email newsletter called Further with the top hand-picked health, wealth and personal growth resources for Generation X. I’m slightly too old to be a millennial and just about sneak into the end of being a Gen-Xer. But Brian is an excellent writer and I enjoy reading what he has to say, particularly on the subject of the middle aged slump many men experience.
In one email, Brian told of analysis that has went into the midlife malaise that often sets in for men in their 40s. That feeling of being unsatisfied but just not being able to somehow put their finger on what is causing it. This despite many of them being in situations of unqualified career success and in the bosom of a loving family. This seems to pass again as men reach their 50s but is it really a rite of passage that (almost) 40 year olds like me have to go through? I hope not.
Maybe it’s all about coming to terms with the flush of youth having passed us by and the fear of growing old and all that that will bring with it. There goes the old morbidity again. Shouldn’t we be getting to a point now where we can look at what’s gone by and start to pick out the elements that we want to concentrate on for the next run? Defining what our own measure of success is and setting the structures in place to allow us to live the life we want to has to be the priority.
For me that means spending as much time as I can with my wife and kids while they are still young. They grow up so fast and I don’t want to be the dad from Cat’s In The Cradle and only catch that on when it’s too late and they’re doing the same thing to me. Weighing that up with providing for the family and staying hungry in my own career is the big counterbalance. And it’s not easy. But I know I won’t set myself on fire for anyone, in my personal or “professional” life, again. My wife and kids deserve the best version of myself I can be. And I need to always remember that.
Overall, I think I got my midlife crises out of the way enough in my 20s and early 30s. I know I’m not young anymore. But I’m not old either. I’m not ready to lie down and wait for retirement just yet. We started a new business last year and I want to play my part on making that a success. On OUR terms and definition of success. I started writing again last year for the first time in a LONG time as well. It’s brought me into contact with many great people and opened my eyes to a lot of new challenges and opportunities. I want to continue that and double down on the parts that make me a better, happier forty year old.
Yes, I am a fan of dad jokes. Yes, I do dance like a middle aged dad at a wedding party (when I get forced onto a dancefloor). Yes, my TV and movie references do seem to tail off somewhat after the early to mid ’90s. And I’m having a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that Nirvana are now classic rock (Nevermind came out nearly thirty years ago FFS!). No, I have never seen Spurs win the Premier League title but hope springs eternal. I have taken my eldest daughter to a match with me though and that’s one of the special moments I can savour.
I’ve got a lot more planned. (1990s movie reference approaching) As Andy and Red said in The Shawshank Redemption, “get busy living or get busy dying” and I choose the first.
I am forty. I am fabulous and I am thriving. Who needs a midlife crisis anyway?