I’ve recently turned 40 and have found myself contemplating what lies on the road ahead and reflecting on the paths I’ve navigated to arrive at this stage in life. Supposedly, I’m at the ‘halfway’ point of my life (though many say it’s age 50 these days), looking downhill toward the end.
I don’t accept this view for a couple basic reasons. Physically, I still feel and look much younger than my age. Also the development rate of modern medical treatments and technologies will enable people to significantly extend the length and quality of life. Besides these simple points I just don’t perceive life as an arc up from birth to middle age and then downwards toward death. Life is a beautiful and mesmerizing experience filled with countless hills, troughs, mountains and valleys.
At certain points on this train of thought, in this pursuit of self-knowledge, I’ve found myself worrying more about “What have I done with my life?” then actually thinking deeply and critically. Sitting and worrying without productive thought or action planning will just hurtle one towards a midlife crisis. I wanted to avoid such circumstances and the negative effects that manifest from them.
The way I see things now, life with family and friends is on the up and up. There’s been plenty of ups and downs along the way, but such is life.
I felt like I was as low as I could go a few short years ago after my separation and divorce. I withdrew from life in general and felt very alone. Each day seemed to have a slightly bleaker outlook then the prior one. I figured that was my push over the hill and it was all downhill from that point on. The one bright spot that kept me going was my loyal companion, Shorty.
He’s a Saluki mix with a heart of gold and ultra-sharp emotional perceptions. Even if I tuned out of life, he was always tuned into me and pushing me (sometime literally) to keep on moving.
Finally I shook off the funk and made new connections with actual human beings. Life was on the way up and I was quickly cruising along. I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. Everything seemed so alive and I enjoyed those fleeting moments. I still missed my son massively, but learned to cope with the heartache. The newfound consistent presence of friends in my life enabled me to share my thoughts and feelings. Just verbalizing my emotions helped me better process what had happened and enabled me to enter a new part of life as I approached ‘life’s hilltop.’
I ended up making a move halfway across the world to live near my son. Quit my job, left my friends, and risked it all to spend time with my boy. The hardest part of going was leaving my new found Love. The heartache that came from moving away from her was immeasurable.
I wasn’t concerned about finding a job, since the economy was in good shape and I never spent more than a month looking for a job before landing one. Unfortunately, I didn’t find one for more than half a year. It was great to spend so much time with my son and I was able to survive for a while off savings. I was down about not having a job and thought that was why I felt so depressed. Then a phone call with my dad opened my eyes to what was really going on. He wasn’t worried that I was unemployed, he believed that I could take care of myself.
His main concern was that I didn’t have any friends or family in the area. He couldn’t imagine how I could survive without those personal connections. Hearing him say that helped me understand why I was feeling depressed. Life isn’t about this job or that job, or not having one at all. What is a life of solitude? Can one truly live life absent of close personal connections? Before that episode of my life I would have answered yes, but now I know differently.
I chose to return back to the other side of the globe. I had to get back to work, but more importantly I needed to be around my loved ones. It would be revitalizing to be with my close friends again, but the main source of unwavering support all along the way was waiting for me. Through the ups and downs of the past couple years I’ve been blessed to have a relationship with an amazingly unique woman that always reminds of the positive energy in this world. Regardless of the thousands of miles that stood between us at certain points, she never let me lose sight of what beautiful things were possible.
From the depths I rose, pulled up by her and my close friends. Over the course of a few years, I went over a hill and into a deep valley, along with quite a few bumps and potholes in the road. Fortunately I bounced back, thanks to those near and dear to me. I’m grateful to have the time, then and now, to share stories, pain, stress, joy, decisions, adventures, secrets, and lots of laughs and love with them, particularly my Love.
In this recent, brief episode of my four decades, I’ve hit numerous metaphorical altitudes on the way up to this hill which we all go over. I can’t imagine that I’m heading over that hill. It feels as if all is flat, wide and open for paths to be carved out in any direction. At any given moment we can feel older or younger. It’s all relative to our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
I think we’ve all been over the hill and back countless times. Look back on the hills traveled to give meaning to life. No need to fret when heading downhill. Just reach out and hold onto the guardrails of your life: dear friends, family and loved ones.