Intro to an Existential Challenge (1/40)
A friend of mine wrote an essay discussing psychological research that showed that people didn’t have a mid-life crisis at the beginning of a decade but at the end of one. So, for example, a crisis would happen at 29 and not 30.
At the time, she was turning 30. I thought it interesting but didn’t think much of it. I do not experience life crises with aging. I have had crises. But they related more to trauma and coming out of it. They have also felt more like post-traumatic growth than post-traumatic stress.
I also had historical data to support my claim. I didn’t have such a crisis at 9, 19, or 29.
So, I didn’t think it would happen to me.
But halfway through my 39th, something happened. I was having a crisis.
Luckily, I live in California, so I didn’t have a lot of disposable income to buy a red Mustang, build myself a man cave, or get a “Sammy Sosa Special.”
But with a DIY mentality, I did what I could with what I had to find affordable ways to feel like I was spinning out of control.
I got rid of 80% of my clothes.
I closed 90% of my social media accounts.
I deleted 100% of what I had written online in three years — close to 400 pieces.
When all that was done, I started organizing my garage with the feverish mania of someone who knows is doomed but gets to work anyway.
Then disaster struck.
Okay, that was a little dramatic and hyperbolic but somewhat true.
We got a carpet beetle infestation, which is just as gross as it sounds. We are not neat freaks, but we are organized and clean. So stop judging us. It can happen to anyone; it can happen to you. As a matter of fact, if you don’t stop judging us, I’ll make sure it happens to you.
We had to move out of our bedroom and have a mini-remodel; my wife slept for a few months in my daughter’s room while I slept on the couch, our closets were packed up in bins, we had to get rid of all of our rugs, we went to sleep wondering if these little devilish creatures were only interested in our expensive garments or if they would somehow climb through our nostrils, eat our brains and begin the zombie apocalypse.
The amount of work that went into dealing with this was mind-blowing and left no time to do anything else.
While this was happening, my neuroses disappeared. I had no time for them, and, honestly, somehow, I found myself blanketed by the warm conviction that we are all going to die and there is nothing we can do about it.
Death can be comforting like that!
But the crisis made me ask larger existential questions as to what it is I am here to do and blah blah blah, post capitalistic angst, blah blah blah, pseudo-scientific inspiration, blah blah blah, and purpose.
I think I am at the other end of it; I don’t think I’d change much about how I do things. It was comforting to know my guiding principles remain the same: family, community, and work.
When it comes to my writing, I have narrowed my focus to first-person stories and left everything else aside. Maybe in my next life, if such a thing happens, I can focus on funny flash fiction or poetry about sticky notes.
In that vein, I will write forty stories in forty days to celebrate my upcoming birthday milestone.
I will cheat from the beginning and count this as a story.
As I write this, I feel the trepidation of such a commitment. I only have one hour in the early morning to write. Once my girls are up, my day starts, and I have only time for work and family.
It typically takes me 2 to 4 days to work on a story. A story a day means one hour to write, edit, and publish one story.
And that feels daunting.
But I’m committed to it.
I apologize beforehand if something feels incomplete.
It probably is.
But I will move forward with it, win, lose, or tie.
I can always quit and get myself a red Camaro or a Sammy Sosa special.