I stare into the mirror as I rub Rogaine on the widening bald spot on the top of my head, surrounded by a well-defined crown of gray. I apply moisturizer to the skin beneath the steely eyes that peer back at me, studying the fine lines and subtle spots of discoloration which hint at 40+ years of exposure to the California sun. I use my “As Seen on TV” body trimmers to first shave the hair off the top of my back and then the hair which grows oddly inside of my ears (and my wife said they were just another stupid impulse buy – best $20 bucks I’ve ever spent J). I glance down and study my torso trying to figure out where those extra 10 pounds are hiding. I strain to read the clock across the other side of the room, first squinting with both eyes and then closing one eye at a time, but it’s a fruitless exercise as the numbers are too blurred to make out. As I turn to walk to bed a dull pain hits both ankles and then shoots up my shins as I remember the overly ambitious workout the day before. As I lie in bed pondering my mortality the memories rush through me like rain. And all I can think to myself is, “Holy shit, how the f*ck did this happen? And where the hell did the last 20 years go?” My mind has somehow tricked me into thinking I’m still 20 years old on the inside, but my body cannot lie – I’m every bit of 40 years old on the outside. The teenagers stirring just down the hall are another bold affirmation of this bitter truth. I lie there a while longer. I surmise that this is the point in my life where I’m supposed to freak out. After all, based on current mortality statistics I’ve now reached the halfway point of my time on this earth. Which can only mean one thing: it’s time for my mid-life crisis! (queue the angst-filled heavy metal music)
As everyone knows a proper mid-life crisis must include several key elements:
1) I need to cheat on my wife with a much younger woman.
The problem here is that my wife is actually hotter now than when we first met, and I’m still over-my-skis in love with her (seriously). Besides what the hell would I do with a much younger woman J?
2) I need to rush out and buy a ridiculously over-priced vehicle.
(insert gratuitous braggy comment here) The problem with this item is that I already own two J.
3) I need to go on a 3-day Vegas bender and lose an obscene amount of money.
The problem here is that my wife and I already do this four to six times a year. But we prefer to call them “weekend getaways” (bender is such a dirty word J).
4) I need to quit my dead-end job and pursue my wildest childhood dreams.
The problem here is that I actually like my job and it pays better than anything else I’m qualified to do. Plus playing professional football kind of went out the window when I graduated high school at 5’7”, 135 lbs., with limited athletic ability (thank God I grew another 2 ¼ inches in college. What? When you’re only 5’9”, every ¼” matters).
5) I need to acquire a mild drug problem.
The problem here is that I already drink a lot (and alcohol is technically a drug) so some might say I already have a mild drug problem. Don’t worry kids, I drink the normal amount for any 40 year-old who’s awesome J.
6) I need to lose weight, dye my hair, get a fake tan, whiten my teeth, and buy a whole new, “younger-looking” wardrobe.
The problem here is that just thinking about all that stuff makes me tired. No thanks – I’d rather just embrace being an old guy (and take a nap).
And there you have it. (Mid-life) Crisis averted.
Don’t take this post the wrong way. My life is far from perfect. I have more flaws than the policies of our last two presidents combined (just ask my cougar wife J). There are countless other people who have accomplished far more at 40 years old than I have. And my journey has certainly not been without plenty of detours and bumps in the road along the way. But I have my health, I’ve been blessed with a loving family, I’m surrounded by great people who I enjoy spending time with, I live in one of the greatest places on earth (Southern California), and I’m completely comfortable in my own skin (even though it’s significantly more wrinkled now than 20 years ago). So I have a hard time not appreciating even the most mundane details of my largely ordinary life. It’s like one of my favorite quotes (see below) from one of my favorite characters (Lester Burnham) from one of my favorite movies (American Beauty) of all time. The line is delivered posthumously at the end of the film after Lester’s wife has a mid-life crisis which inadvertently kicks off his own mid-life crisis, which ultimately leads (indirectly) to his untimely death. The film is admittedly dark and Lester Burnham is indeed a very flawed man, but his message (and the film’s message) is actually quite beautiful if you really take the time to think about it.
“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… and then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… You will someday.”
-Lester Burnham (American Beauty)
I think most people (myself included) have a little Lester Burnham inside of us. There’s nothing glorious or overly distinguished about my life. I’m not rich & famous. I haven’t made any significant contributions to the world (outside of my children). Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis probably don’t even give me a second thought. But just like Lester Burnham, I choose not to focus on the things I don’t have, but rather on the things that I do. Life is a gift. There’s beauty all around us. Our time on this earth is fleeting. Be sure to enjoy every stupid little moment you have left.
And above all else always remember that no matter how bleak or dire things seem in your life, it could be worse, you could be Canadian.
What? This is still the Quinsey Blog after all J.