I am deep, deep, DEEP into my midlife crisis. Everyone hits different moments in their lives where they begin to realize the finiteness of their existence. My awareness is particularly acute owing mostly to the fact that, as a hospital chaplain, I confront death multiple times every week. Granted, some of these deaths occur to people who have lived full lives and simply die of old age. But much of the death I see happens to people who are just too young to die. One day they are working, traveling, caring for the kids, and planning for retirement. The next day, whammo! A cancer diagnosis, car accident, heart attack, or stroke put an end to all of it. That quick. It may sound morbid, but I never assume I am going to live a long life. I don’t expect to die today but, you never can tell.
I was talking about my midlife crisis, wasn’t I? There are things that I want to experience before I die. Not bucket list stuff. I refuse to make a bucket list. But there are simple things that I still want to be.
The list of things I still want to be:
Grill Master: I want to be someone who can grill all the meats. I don’t want to do it competitively but I want to be that guy.
Carpenter/Machinist: I would like to be able to make stuff with wood and metal. I can’t yet, but I’d like to. Guys who create things with wood and metal are just cool. And in some cultures, those same people are believed to possess magical powers and non-magical people are afraid of them. I kind of feel like those people are magic folk and I’m still a muggle who wants to learn.
Biker: Yes, I know, a motorcycle is so cliché. But hear me out. I don’t need a fancy bike or leather chaps. Those are costumes. Anyone with money can buy those and pretend to be a biker. I want to be an expert rider. I know people who are as comfortable with their bikes as they are with their cars. That’s what I want to be. I don’t need a whole stable of bikes. Just one. This one:
Priest: I’m in no hurry with this one and this is entirely out of my hands. But, for me at least, priests are like superheroes. They wear costumes and some even wear capes. They have special powers and they help people. The best priests I know are possessed of a quiet confidence in their vocation. That’s what I want to have. An maybe I don’t need to be a priest, but to be able to suit up every day and face all of the internal and external challenges of life with the faith to endure is a pretty awesome power.
My midlife crisis isn’t an excuse to recover my youth. I peaked late so my younger years can suck it. I survived lots of stuff as a child, adolescent, and young adult. I don’t want to go through that again. I like my gray beard and I’m not embarrassed of my expanding waistline. Ask my family, they’ll tell you I have exhibitionist tendencies. Milo, my ten year old son, has the same body confidence. He makes me proud. My midlife crisis has something to do with improving myself for myself.
I want to be good at something for its own sake and learn all I can about myself along the way. I want to know my limits and work to overcome them. I would like to eventually finish strong every day so that when it is my last day, I didn’t just lie down and die. Here’s hoping you’ll do the same.