The 3 Mes: 22 Days Until 40

Number 3I’ve become very self-centered over the last few months.

Not in a “I’m going to be rude” kind of way. No, this is more like I get lost in thoughts, staring off into the distance. It’s like…

I’m sorry, I was someplace else right then. I’m back now.

A few posts ago, someone commented that I was going through a mid-life crisis. At the time, I brushed it off. Me? No!

I didn’t have any of the signs we all know from television and movies! But… now…  I think this might be my version of it. An exclusive and unique mid-life crisis. Sounds like something I would do. And to get through this stage in my life, I thought it might be “fun” to document my thoughts and feelings. Capture this moment. As a writer, you never know what will lead to inspiration and right now all of my focus seems to be on this, this shift. It is new, it is different, and it won’t happen again.

Okay…. Oddly, at this time (22 days off from life’s halfway mark) I feel splintered, broken into three different versions of myself.

There is the present me, the future me, and the past me. And I can see them in the mirror, they haunt me. When I get dressed in the morning, I sometimes wonder which one I am dressing like, which one I am going to be that day. This may all seem very dramatic to some, but I am a writer. It comes with the territory, drama is in the DNA. One of the great truths for all three of the mes.

The Present Me

Right now, the funny thing is that when it comes to all of the things that are spurring my passions, they are around doing things for my family. They are the center of my life, something I have completely accepted as a truth. So I can definitely throw away the stereotypes of the selfish older dude throwing everything away, speeding away in a red convertible shouting “See ya!”

  • No, I don’t want a sports car, my dream car right now is a dark blue Honda Odyssey (they come with a freaking vacuum cleaner!). Yup, a mini-van… Did I mention the vacuum cleaner?
  • I don’t want to escape and travel; nope, I just reserved a stay for my family at Disneyland next year. I want to race down Main Street and convince my son to keep his eyes open during the Haunted Mansion because it is the best thing ever.
  • And instead of running from responsibility, I want to pay things off, plan, and get a new house.

Yeah, that is the wild present me right there. Woohoo!

You know what really gets my goat about turning 40? I feel like I just figured out how to be in my 30s! Being in the 30s is fun. You don’t make the mistakes you make in your 20s, you are more in control, more with it, more understanding of your place in reality. I liked then…

I mean now, but soon then…

Damn.

The Past Me

I had so many, many plans for my life.

Most of them revolved around my writing and the understood agreement I had with fate that my career would be something for the halls of legends, dusty classroom books and (possibly) posters on dorm room walls. I imagined long lines at bookstores waiting for an autograph and full auditoriums where my readers would laugh at every joke I made, even the bad ones (I make a lot of bad jokes). And don’t get me started on the imaginary shelf I had for awards, sometimes I even had the speeches already prepared.

There is always the chance that one of my books still might capture the imagination of readers, but for the time being my library of completed books is a lot less than what I hoped for. This is mainly because life gets in the way. I’m not in a position to be a full-time author, and the idea of creating one book a year with screenplays and plays, etc. is just not feasible.

I just don’t have the time and with 40 approaching, I’ll have even less!

I’m proud of my books and those that seem to give my books a chance seem to really respond to them, but I am earning each of my readers one at a time. They take a chance with me and most times it pays off. It’s all very different from the dreams of a future New York Times bestseller.

The Future Me

A few weeks ago I lost a tooth.

The Happy ToothNo, “lost” is the wrong word. I know exactly where I left it. See, I had noticed a cavity and made an appointment with my dentist. It didn’t hurt or anything, so I didn’t think it was a big deal, but my dentist said it had to go, it was infected. So a week later there I was, drugged up, with a dentist bent over me, pushing down on my tooth until it snapped.

As I was recovering after the experience, and the nurse was telling me about the implant I would be looking into in two seasons, she noted that getting it in would be a lot less traumatic. It was a relief to hear her say that, because it made me realize that I was not the only person that feels a little defeated by the loss of a tooth.

Yeah, I let that tooth down with Coke Zero and candy corn. A defeat. And, I know losing teeth like this leads down the path to one of the future mes I don’t want.

See, I see myself going two different ways, extremes.

  • On one side is the “Cool Professor.” I’m staying in shape, still biking, wearing bow ties, dressed sophisticated. And check out those new award-winning books!
  • The flip side of that coin is the “Unloved Santa.” I think everyone knows what I mean by that description, a messy beard, a belly and back problems that arise every time I get up from a very well-worn chair  in front of a TV.

Honestly, I know I’ll probably end up closer to the professor dude, but Santa is still out there. Part of the reason I know that will be the case is I like to set a good example for my kids. And no one wants to grow up to be Unloved Santa.

Yet, the space in my mouth is there, showing the possibility of future losses.

Is that how it works?

We fall off, piece by piece, until we are a shell of our former selves, an embarrassment to the past version. I can’t help but imagine the future me reciting over and over again, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

The Dante ExperienceI wasn’t a bleak kid growing up, but death would be on my mind probably more than most kids. I was raised Catholic but it never stuck with me. I had too many questions, and the answers I would get in Catechism and from my then priest were never enough (many of those concerns found their way into my comedy radio series The Dante Experience, which you can hear on this page).

Let me give you an example of what I was like as an inquisitive kid, someone explains that when you die you go to heaven.

“Okay, then what?” I would always ask.

“Well, you spend eternity in God’s graces and you are reunited with loved ones.” They would answer.

“Okay,” I would pause and then ask further, “then what?”

This is when the eyes would always start to glaze over. “That is it for all eternity. Pure happiness, pure love.”

“For all time? Seriously? Then what? The same thing? Won’t people get bored? Or does God take away your desire to be bored? Wait! Does that mean my personality is changed!? See, I like to do things. I like to learn, try new things, explore. And if I am simply in the same location, doing the same thing, it would be junior high all over again. And if all of my questions are answered, what is left to learn? Do I lose my desire to learn? I like who I am, I don’t want to change. And if everything is good, is there still bad?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you need opposites for the purpose of definition. So you need dark for light and good for bad. So if everything is good, always good… is that even possible? For example, does that mean every meal I have will be good, great? Won’t that get boring too? Won’t I need to have the occasional bad meal for comparison’s sake?”

“Eating in heaven?”

“Good point, do we have to eat? And in relation to that do we have to worry about the bathroom? I think I could lose the bathroom.”

And it would be usually at this moment I would see the eyes of the teacher/priest scrolling up to the clock.

I remember once as a teenager I was given a book that supposedly had the answers to all of the questions like I had. You see, it was written specifically for annoying teenagers like me. Each page would take on a different possible inquiry, and I gave the book a chance. I really did. But so many of the answers leaned on faith and just trusting in the unknown.

Finally, it was very late and everyone in my house was asleep, and I had given up with the book. I turned off my reading lamp and asked the darkness. “Then what?”

No response.

“Then what?”

I have yet to get an answer… besides the fact that sooner or later I will find out. We all will. I’m just that little bit closer.

A Jane Austen DaydreamIf you liked reading this post, why not check out one of my books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, A Jane Austen Daydream,  Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous DareMy Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  Thanks for reading!

Need an editor? Dream of finishing that book but need some help? Learn about my editing services by visiting this page on my site. Or you can contact Rebecca T. Dickson and request to work with me by clicking the image below.

Rebecca T. Dickson, Editor

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12 responses

  1. You’ve probably heard the saying about life just getting better after 40 – it has for me so far (I’m 44) – and I bet it will for you too.

  2. I’d say I think about death a fair amount, too. Though, less what you focused on in that section, but your message overall. I’m not concerned with what comes next, but what we leave. Am I going to have accomplished anything that lasts? Will my children or grandchildren look up to me? Will I have made a difference?

    Additionally, what you are saying about your different selves makes a lot of sense not only to me, but to philosophers. I can’t remember who or what exactly they said, but it was something along the lines of there is no present self, just an every updating version of our past self, whose own values change moment to moment. We grow and outgrow some parts of our lives, but I think we do hold onto things, despite our age. Those things, like family or love, are what make life worth living.

  3. I enjoyed your overall message. There are always the questions of how did I get to this point in my life, what am I doing now, and where will this go? I think you captured those feelings very well considering how you are experiencing them.
    I especially liked the part about you losing a tooth. The feeling that you disappointed your body in some way is easily to understand because I feel that no matter what the age people get a sense that they should be doing more for their bodies then they are doing.
    Bow-ties are cool!

  4. I see what you mean particularly in the “past” versus “present me” distinction. Interesting, how our goals change… not necessarily for the worse, Although some goals that I have now, as an adult, would’ve been scoffed by me in my former self. Having legendary libraries of authored books, as a youngster, is now the equivalent of getting even ONE impressive piece published these days. Good thoughts.

  5. I can relate to how you see yourself in past, present, and future when you’re at a crossroads in your life. I too see myself and even talk to my different selves at various points in time. Just recently I put up a picture of myself when I’m seven next to a picture of my mom when she was in her early 20s. I did this originally for the intent of not forgetting who I was. As a way of humbling me and a way of making me think of who I want to become( my mother is one of the most brave, honest, and heroic human beings I have ever met). I can relate to the fear of not knowing where you will be and where you will turn up. I’m 23 about to be 24 and trying to venture into grad school thinking the world will open up knowing full well I will be disappointed, but striving forward with optimistic thinking. I think that’s really all we can ever do. But I take comfort in the fact that as a writer we can preserve our old selves through writing, whether it’d be a character invented or a nonfiction piece. But I really love reading this kind of analysis of the human spirit. I purposely read this blog first before the follow up because it’s the only universal thing we have left in such a fragmented world. How we feel turning forty. What a concept! Life and death, age and youth, all the things we struggle over in one forum…becoming a better or different version of ourselves. I think it was great that you posted this. Wish I could say more but fear that until I too turn forty I won’t have much to add.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you liked it.

      In blogging, you need to put yourself out there. Sometimes it is awkward but I have found that when it feels difficult the final product can be the most rewarding. I realized really that I was hiding part of what I was going through at this moment of my life. I needed to explore it, work my way through it.

      Cheers!

  6. I tend to overthink about Heaven as well, usually ending up not wanting to go. I always wonder if I won’t be able to read the books I haven’t read yet, or watch the movies that have yet to be released, or play the games that are still just a sliver of an idea in Todd Howards head. As for writing, I am constantly worrying that I won’t accomplish what I want to.

    • Mark Twain once famously said “Go to Heaven for the climate, go to Hell for the company.” Ha.

      The trick is to just focus on priorities in your writing- the projects that mean the most to you. It is very easy to get lost in the “what-ifs.”

  7. Thanks for the advice on turning forty! I just turned thirty and it seemed kind of anti-climactic to me. Actually, I took a whole year to prepare for it so that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal when it happened. I made out a chart of one exciting thing to do each month (something that would require me to leave my comfort zone), so that when my birthday came around, i could feel like I had done something with my life so far.
    I’ve toured with bands all through my 20’s, but going on little traveling trips this past year has helped out dramatically (my biggest trip was to San Diego for their Comic Con/The Conan O’Brien show in LA).
    All my friends are younger than me, so thanks for those helpful hints to get me through my 30’s. If you have any more advice, please let me know!
    Karen

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