I Googled the symptoms of male mid-life crisis and I thankfully don’t really fit into this category.
I’m slightly on the younger side and I have no desire to do anything rash, like shut down my business, leave my family and move to Vegas.
But I am approaching a point in my life where I have two competing emotions. The first emotion is that I can’t wait for everything to speed up so that I can accomplish everything I want to accomplish in life. Truth be told, I’ve always had that emotion. Even when I was a child, I couldn’t wait to get older so that I could get my driver’s license, go to college, go to a bar, etc., etc.
However, it’s been a few years since anyone has checked my I.D., and for the first time in my life, I feel the need to slow everything down. Our older friends weren’t kidding when they told my wife and me not to blink…because when I blinked, the baby girl who I pushed around in her carriage is now 7 years old.
Yes, I know I still have some time until she leaves the nest, but she went from 0 to 7 in a blink of an eye, and that’s what I find so troublesome right now. I’m at a crossroads where I still feel terribly unaccomplished, but all of a sudden I’m receiving certain cues in my interactions with people that suggests “this is it.” I want to devote all my time to prove to these people that “no, this is not it.”
I can still become a billionaire, I can still exercise my way back into my 18-year-old body, I can still write a brilliant book and I can still take over the world.
To put some of this hyperbole aside, how do I accomplish my life’s goals when I want to devote as much time as possible to holding my daughter’s hand and tickling my 3-year-old son to make him laugh?
Over the past year, I’ve lost two grandmothers. My newly single grandfather, whom I don’t see nearly enough, lives only 45 minutes away and he’s in his 90s, so time is of the essence. Of course, now my own parents are replacing that older generation, so I feel an urgency to be with them, too.
All I want to do right now is stop time and enjoy every moment. But I have bills to pay, mouths to feed, a business to grow, and I am too tired and impatient to deal with temper tantrums before going to bed at night…so, I want to speed things up. This is an awful, bipolar feeling, which is why I Googled the definition of male mid-life crisis.
A little over two years ago, I also had a spiritual awakening and this is the saving grace in all of this. I’ve learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that I’m here to carry out God’s will and not my own. My struggle is no longer about whether there is a purpose in life, but rather how to discern God’s will, how to correctly execute his will and how to correctly prioritize my life.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Men’s Fraternity, which is a group led by Mahopac resident Larry Light that meets on Monday nights at the Mahopac Library. The name of the group is a bit of a misnomer because there are no kegs at this party. The group is based on the “Authentic Manhood” curriculum developed by Robert Lewis.
The first part of the evening, we engaged in a Bible study, which happened to be focused on one of my favorite passages, Matthew 6:25-34, which is about worry and anxiety and how we need to have faith that God will provide for us.
During the second part of the evening, we watched a video by Lewis that focused on fatherhood. I’m not going to lie; I had tears in my eyes throughout the video because it addressed my feelings of inadequacy regarding the most important role in my life: being a dad.
I learned some interesting statistics. Despite the many qualms that men and women have about becoming parents, 97 percent of all parents have no regrets in having children; 89 percent of all parents say that having children increased their enjoyment of life; and 81 percent of all parents say watching children grow up is life’s greatest pleasure.
And apparently, I’m not alone in the emotions I was feeling while watching this video, as 74 percent of all fathers feel inadequate. I learned that as a father, I’m a living message that goes forward in a time I’ll never see. So, my legacy is entirely wrapped up in my role as a father.
In evaluating myself, I learned that I bounce around between being the “distant” dad, the “involved but visionless” dad and the “involved and strategic” dad. Obviously, my goal should be to strengthen my traits in the latter definition.
I also learned that it’s never too late for most fathers. Even older estranged parents can still reach out to their adult children and apologize for their failings.
Right now, the most important thing for my children to see is that I love their mother and the most important thing for them to hear is that I love them. For my 7-year-old, I should be instructing her on virtues and basic life skills.
And to be candid, the group teaches a Christian-based curriculum, so starting at 6 years old, Christians should help their children make Jesus a part of his or her life (though I would argue that these lessons would apply to men of any religion).
None of what I learned negates these mixed emotions I’ve been feeling lately. Certainly laying it all out there in this column has been cathartic. I suspect these mixed feelings are just the beginning of what it feels like to get older and at some point I’ll make peace with it.
But at 38 years old, I still have plenty of time to accomplish my dreams while trying to enjoy every moment and keeping my eyes on the most important things in life. It’s certainly a balancing act and far more art than science.