Mid-Life Crisis

The-Thinker-Auguste-Rodin-GrayscaleLife is meaningless.

Wait, before you go calling 911, this isn’t a necessarily depressing thought, nor am I having some kind of crisis. I’m still sober, in moderately good cheer (thoughtful, but not depressed), and just trying to figure out what gives me meaning.

I just mean that life doesn’t come with its own meaning “built in.” You have to find it for yourself.

Lately, I’ve been trolling Tinder. I’m not sure why; I’m not especially horny, and I’m definitely not looking for a “relationship.” But I want that ego boost of “somebody likes me.” And of course, if it’s some hot young 21 year old, well, cha-ching. I still got it! Of course, I never follow up on any of these likes.

So… why am I doing it?

I’ve been building my travel van lately, and I’ve noticed a trend. Whenever I realize how close I am to “done,” I get… depressed. Just feeling like… blah. Which is strange, because the whole point of this (very expensive) endeavor was to “hit the open road” — to travel all across this great nation, to see all the things.

So… why does the prospect of being done building it fill me with ennui and depression?

I’ve come to realize a few things. First, I’m still — at age 46 — seeking validation primarily in the eyes of others. That’s the Tinder thing. I don’t really want sex… well, I love sex, but I don’t want a relationship and all the complicated things that go along with sex. What I want is that validation — somebody wants me!

And the van… I’m a builder. I make things. I take great delight in building things and showing them off to the world. So the prospect of finishing the van means… no more building (at least, no more building the van). I’ve taken a lot of pleasure in slowly restoring and “kitting out” this old Ford Econoline van, and the thought of… not doing that anymore is depressing. I have to keep reminding myself that the build was always only part of the plan. The travel was a huge part, too.

But even with travel — why? I mean, why travel at all? Part of my brain goes back to the old teenage default of seeking validation through others’ eyes — I’ll be so cool, living in a van. Men will envy me. Women will want me. But, really? Or more so, is that really what I should be chasing after? That’s the brass ring?

Travel is one of those things — like family and a house with a white picket fence — that everyone is supposed to want. It’s an “assumed default” in life. But the reality is I’m a great deal more ambivalent about it. I like the destinations — I like seeing new places, getting a feel for how people in different places live. The feel of the place. The smells. The rhythms. The feel. But the process of traveling is… unpleasant. Uncomfortable. Expensive. Frustrating. Stressful.

I know that I can’t keep chasing validation in the eyes of others. But the problem — circling back to the lede, is that I don’t know what else to do. I don’t just want to live my life on autopilot… doing things that aren’t particularly important to me just because… it’s what I did yesterday.

I suspect on some levels, this is a mid-life crisis. I’m slowly accepting that at 46, I’m not the hot young thing who can go out “cruising for chicks” any more. I’m not fishing for compliments or bashing myself — I know I’m still a fairly attractive man, despite my age, and my intellect and personality are compelling to a lot of women. But that can’t be the basis of my self-esteem. It’s too … mercurial. Too easily lost from one moment to the next; three years ago, I was on top of my game, everyone wanted me, I was sexy, rich, and popular. Now? I’m a hermit, outcast from most of the Burner community, outcast from a lot of social events due to trying to stay sober. And… I’m not sure I want it back. There are a lot of ways in which I like my quiet little life. But, I do get lonely…

So, wrapping this meander up, I’ve been “searching for meaning.” I’ve been trying to look for things that give me joy simply in the doing. Playing with my dogs. Building things — physical and software — that people admire and enjoy. Music.

I’d love to say that I’ve figured it all out, but I haven’t, not by a long shot. All I know is that my life needs to change. I need to start pursuing things that bring me genuine happiness — like building things — and stop chasing after the brass ring of “do people like me.” I need genuine human connection, not an attempt to seek approval.

Stay tuned. My story isn’t over, yet.

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