When I turned 20, I had an existential crisis. I had been alive for two decades, and I couldn’t think of a single thing I’ve contributed to the world. I consoled myself that I was only 20 and had spent all of my self-aware years in school, so there was no reason I should have made a mark on the world yet. The pressure was off, then, but it’s back, now. I turn 40 tomorrow.
I spend every single day trying to figure out how I can (as Steve Jobs used to say) make a dent in the universe. If I’m going to take up space on this planet, I want to do something worthy of it. I want to affect masses of asses. I want people’s lives changed, and for the better. But I’d settle for amusing people, honestly.
I never thought I’d be the guy who turned 40 and freaked out, but here I am. Half my life is, statistically, gone. The average life expectancy for a male born in the United States in 1976 is 76.2. As it stands, I will live until just before Christmas 2052. That’s just not enough time.
What’s funny is I’ve been telling people how terribly excited I am about my 40s, and I’m not lying. I feel like I’m in that sweet spot where I know enough to do things I want to do and still have enough energy to do it. I really feel like I could take on the world. Except for selfishness or incompetence, there is nothing stopping me.
But then there is this gnawing feeling of dread. I feel so aware of time and it’s passing. I’ve never felt that before in my life. How many more opportunities do I have to strike out and be an artist, truly and purely an artist? I don’t know and it freaks me out. At the same time, I’ve got a job I love with people I love that allows me to grow and mature and learn and create, and (unless I really want to jump off the career cliff) it’s a place I can probably stay at for a very long time.
I also have a very healthy, big family and good, good friends. I try to be kind and giving, as well as forgiving when required. I’m not lacking in the relationship department. I will not be that guy on his deathbed wishing he had spent more time with the ones he loved.
In truth probably what worries me the most is that I’m having such a reaction to it. I’m showing all the typical signs of a mid-life crisis. That’s ridiculous. I’m not really unsatisfied in life, yet I feel like it. What is that about?
So, I’m now more than halfway dead. I’ve done some good things, and learned a lot of lessons. But I’ve still got a ways to go, and I don’t want to waste it.