Reconciling With Reality

Originally published on 6/29/2015

This fall, I turn 40. As such things are typically reckoned, that puts me roughly coming up on my life's halfway point. In the past few years, as I've been approaching this milestone, I'm becoming more OK with putting things on the "Things I'll Never Do" list.

To some degree, I think that's one of the great tasks of middle age. There's the obvious stuff that's been on that list for quite a while. In 1994, the list gained an entry for: "I will never be valedictorian of a high school class". When I turned 30, the list gained an entry for: "I will never be a millionaire by age 30". You get the idea.

But, adding things to the list speeds up as middle age approaches. Because I have issues with my lower back seizing up, I've added: "I will never play recreational hockey" despite a desire to start. Just not going to happen for me.

The list itself isn't really the issue though. It's how you react to adding things to the list that determines how your middle-aged years go.

Most people end up following one of 3 paths:

  • Getting depressed by it.
  • Rebelling against the very concept.
  • Accepting it.

Plenty of people end up with at least a bit of the first. I think it's a pretty natural reaction to realizing there's probably more of your life behind you than in front of you.

Those who rebel are common enough that they're a cultural cliché. They're the people who get divorced, find a trophy spouse, buy a sports car and a boat and basically attempt to live a while as though they're 25 instead of over 40. The mid-life crisis is, to my thinking, the least constructive approach.

The third is where most people end up after spending a bit of time in the first 2 categories. But, with a mindful approach to life, I think it's possible to gracefully accept reality. It's what I've been working to do.

I'm really OK with nearly everything I've been adding. I'm sure there are going to be some that will hurt a bit. Hopefully, I have the character to grieve quickly for those things, to pursue enthusiastically those things that DON'T need to be added to the list and the wisdom to know the difference.

After all, there are PLENTY of things that never need to go on that list. It's never to late to learn to play an instrument or to sing better. There's never a time when you have to stop learning. There's never a time when you have to stop making the world around you a better place. And, as the years pile up, you probably have more resources and skills to bring to bear in that pursuit.

Here's to the 2nd half.