Midlife crisis: Achievement unlocked?

A motorcycle I owned once upon a couple of times

Note: This is not a researched based psychological paper. It should not be considered advice (I don’t offer advice – ever). I acknowledge there are other factors not discussed here which may contribute to what is known as the midlife crisis. The text to follow is a semi-satirical view of how I view it with regards to my own life. Feel free to call me out if you smell BS, and likewise add your own thoughts and experiences if so inclined. Enjoy!

It was first suggested to me that I might be in a state of midlife crisis several years ago. Still in my corporate days, my boss (who himself may have been experiencing a low-level crisis) pointed out that arriving at my desk one morning via a fresh Landyachtz Dinghy was a likely indicator. While I had impulsively returned to skateboarding some years prior, this moment was indicative of the fact that I was now all-in. During this time I had some great fun, and my skills were improving. A couple of sprained wrists, however, taught me that in my forties, I’m not able to recover from an injury as I had done in my teens. Finding myself unable to perform everyday tasks without pain several months after my latest injury convinced me that the risk wasn’t worth the reward. As to the question of midlife crisis, this certainly didn’t fit the profile: I wasn’t attempting to reinvent my persona, after all. I was merely revisiting an activity I very much enjoyed during a previous time in my life. Growing my hair to my shoulders, and bringing a length of rolling plywood everywhere certainly can’t be compared to the comedic trope of a toupee and a Corvette.

Prior to the skateboarding, I had resumed motorcycling. Motorcycles were my life during my entire twenties, and an affair that was a daily part of my life spanning two decades. I ate, breathed, and slept motorcycles. Not to say that I slept much. The occasional visitor to my spartan bachelor pad could often find a vintage cycle undergoing various stages of repair. It’s presence in my living room as much a part of the decor as the hand-me-down sofa. During that time, I’d rubbed elbows with reality TV stars such as the late Indian Larry, Dave Perewitz, father and son Teutul, and others. I was at Danbury CT’s legendary Marcus Dairy meet every Sunday morning, regardless of how many fermented ounces of cheap poison I’d consumed at the rough-and tumble Our Place Cafe the evening prior. Living just six miles from the custom motorcycle industry icon that employed me, my ride home often took me the long way, stretching the commute up to 80 miles. I rode year round, those cold weather rides being understandably shorter. In spite of my love for motorcycles and motorcycling, circumstances changed, and practicality ended the activity (I’d already been burnt out on “the scene” for some time). After a move out of town, I began carpooling to work. While I took pleasure in each motorcycle ride, setting out solely for pleasure did not interest me. So the cycle sat in the garage, and fell into disuse. When a co-worker inquired if I’d sell it, I considered doing so, and threw out a figure. This led to a deal, and motorcycling was out out of my life for a time. Nearly a decade later, I found myself in another long commute, and considered using a motorcycle, as I had been racking up a lot of miles, and wanted to prolong the life of my car. This rationale had me perusing the classifieds, and in an unlikely turn of events, I found the very motorcycle I had last owned, available for purchase. And when I say very, I mean the exact one. Some things had been changed, but the custom paint job airbrushed by a friend eliminated any question about the machine’s provenance – even from the craigslist photo. When faced with a once in a lifetime opportunity, you must act, or resign yourself to wondering what might have been. I opted to act, and was on my way to resuming a two-wheeled commute. I’d found my way back to the activity of motorcycling, yes. Without realizing it, however, I’d also returned to the pursuit of tinkering and customization. It began innocuously enough: The bike had traveled only about a thousand miles while absent from me, and needed a refresh due to neglect. Tires, fluids, seals – that sort of thing. But I took it further. When I’d owned this machine the first time around, I didn’t have the money to realize my vision for it. So I did what I could. With more financial resources, I found myself able to finally create the machine I’d set out to do almost twenty years prior. It was my obsession for quite some time. The motorcycle as an object was justifiable. The obsession with it was another matter altogether. Was this a sign of possible midlife crisis? Hmm… Naw, couldn’t be. I was just enjoying a pastime.

Other interests have prompted me to quietly question if all this might truly be indicative of a midlife crisis. The resolute answer to these questions came to me recently, upon defining for myself what a midlife crisis actually is. That definition is the topic for another post I’m brewing, so I’ll give the short answer here: I believe that when someone loses connection with his identity, and this state is brought into focus by some change in circumstances, there exists the potential for panic to ensue. Culture targets the male persona, but I don’t believe the midlife crisis is thus limited. Our relative insecurity as males, however, does make our coping strategies more conspicuous. Regardless, the midlife crisis is an attempt (successful or not) to deal with the sudden realization that one has lost touch with ones self. Thus in my own case, I can state with confidence that I’m not going through a midlife crisis. Not just yet, at least. I’m not in denial, I simply don’t feel the circumstances are there. While I’m at the right age, my children are still young, and I’m deep in parent mode, providing me with an external (but very important) identity. I’m not presently wrapped up in a career, and even when I was, my vocation was never my life. At age 48 I’m still trying to discover who I am, but feel no concern about it. I do accept that if my marriage were to end, or when my kids no longer need me, I’m likely going to feel the impact of having no clear individual purpose in life. And that’s where I feel the midlife crisis could become a reality. Until then, I’m going to enjoy my fortunate position, be the best partner and father I can be, and hopefully discover who I am along the way.

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