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October 25, 2012 8:03 am

CULTURE SHOCK: A calm, collected crisis

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Last week someone brought up the subject of birthdays. I don’t remember why, but I only assume it was a calculated scheme to make me curl up inside my head to ponder my age and worth.

 

 

I was taken aback when asked when my own birthday was. I answered, looked at a calendar and let out a slow, low, “ooooh no.”

Up until that moment, I hadn’t realized that the date was fast-approaching.

Since I don’t want to appear to be asking for “happy birthdays” from a town of mostly-strangers, I’ll keep the date to myself. (But if you happen to find out, by all means give me the attention.)

Now fully aware the number of rings inside my legs will soon reach the quarter-century mark, I ask myself, how young is too young for a mid-life crisis?

A couple things come into play here. What have I accomplished compared to expectations and desires, and how long do I expect to live?

The former is tough to gauge and the latter is almost completely out of my control unless I choose to pull a “Maude” at age 80.

My list of (significant) accomplishments is short and wholly subjective.

I’m unmarried. This might not be an accomplishment (though I could certainly argue it is), but does it count against me? Some might say so, because marriage is widely regarded as a critical step toward a full and happy life. But not marrying the wrong person is also something of an accomplishment, no?

I have no children, and although many would say nothing is more rewarding than having little brainwash-able half-yous running around, others would stress the importance of being mentally and financially prepared before burdening your own life with the responsibility of a child.

Let’s see, what else … I won second place in my elementary school spelling bee, but this one really isn’t arguable. This is a full-blown failure. I lost to a girl a grade beneath me when I misspelled the word “appraise.” There’s no shame in misspelling a word most fifth-graders don’t know the meaning of, but it would’ve been nice to lose on a word that wasn’t part of my father’s job title.

The rest of my list of failures is something of a snake eating its own tail. I know almost exactly where my life has been negatively affected by my own fear-induced inaction, but I’m too afraid to make those fears and aspirations public.

There’s a very good chance that discussing and verbalizing those fears might help me work through them. And that’s a scary thought.

It’s my own personal, circle of life. A circle with one of those Internet frowny faces in it.

It’s fair to say, I think, that I’m not a failure. Not completely, at least. Again, this is subjective, and I admit, I’m a little biased. I’m interested, what does it mean to you to fail? That might help me figure out what it means to me.

I haven’t failed in any blatant manner. I haven’t been shunned from society. I haven’t been to prison. I never watched an entire season of a reality show.

For the most part I have lived a fairly respectable and thus far borderline-successful life. I went to college. I got a job. I am now able to support myself (financially, that is. Emotionally speaking there’s still plenty of heavy-lifting to do).

But almost none of this matters. Trying to argue for my general worth and success is pointless. I’m arguing with myself, which means at least half (98 percent) of me feels unsatisfied and unfulfilled in some mostly-unidentified way. The mere fact that I wrote this column is more than a tacit admission to coming up short.

But where, exactly?

If all goes well (which it rarely does), I’m nowhere near my actual mid-life. But when I get there, the potential of crisis won’t be based on the remaining half of life, but on how much I had let fears affect the first half.

I wasn’t born on New Year’s Day, but my birthday, a day that represents its own brand of arbitrary rebirth, falls close enough to Jan. 1 that I can start planning for how I might improve my life, and hopefully my judgments of myself.

And maybe next year I’ll be brave enough to share.

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