Last week I covered the three prongs of my “midlife makeover” — my issues with money, food, and stuff. I thought that covered all the bases, but I’ve come to realize that there’s one more component of all this that needs to be actively addressed: my issues with me.
At some level, any midlife crisis is a crisis of identity. You’ve been an adult for long enough that things like retirement and death are closer now than the day you graduated high school; and unless you have been profoundly lucky or profoundly successful, you almost certainly have a moment where look at the state of your life, and you ask yourself, “What the hell have I been doing all this time?”
I have struggled for years with my disappointment in the trajectory of my own life. If you had asked 20 year old me where I would be in my 40s, I would not have even come remotely close to describing my life today. I probably would have said that by 40 I would be a successful man, writing for a living, happily married to a wonderful woman, and making enough money to take family vacations to Disney World.
Such a closeted Pollyanna. Hashtag eyeroll.
None of that has come about. Instead I fell into teaching, a career that never went much of anywhere, and all the while found myself unable to publish more than a single novelty book and some article contributions. I spent most of my thirties blaming everyone but myself for how things were. And when the teaching thing started crumbling around me, my anger and resentment at the world got worse. It also started turning inward.
What sucks is, I thought I’d already had my identity crisis, when I literally transitioned my gender identity seven years ago. But even a transitioned me is still me, with all my flaws and shortcomings. Even a transtioned me is still a divorced, failed teacher who’s had to start her career over again in her early forties, in a field she never trained for or wanted to be in, without any sort of financial stability.
All things considered, “me” is in a pretty terrible place right now. And I feel like my inner turmoil is reflected in the messy, chaotic, self-defeating way I’ve lived my life up to this point.
That’s not to say my life is terrible. On the whole, I make it through each day just fine. I have a steady paycheck, I have kids who love me, and I have a roof over my head. I am grateful for that; it’s just that I wonder what I could be if I got my shit together?
Change the way you live, change your self.
So ultimately, this isn’t just about money, food, or stuff. This is about my self, my own relationship with the person who I am, rather than the person I wish I had become. Four prongs of a complete upending of how I live my life, but on my terms, not the world’s terms.
Four prongs, or … four tines? Yeah, like a fork. Money, food, stuff, and self are the four points I’m stabbing at the world with, and this whole thing is an effort to attach a handle on them and make them useful. It is the Fork of Personal Responsibility, and it is time I wielded it!
Oh god, that’s just stupid. But I kinda like it …