Friday, May 30, 2008

Pondering the past and the future

A confluence of old friends in new situations... last weekend we went to a resort in the Berkshires where there was a reunion of some of Ben's old friends (more on that below). In the past two weeks, I've gotten pinged via LinkedIn by several old friends from grad school and my days as a reporter/editor for a twice-weekly paper in Connecticut (still the most fun and stimulating job I've ever had). One of them was still in the newspaper industry until quite recently, when he quit for reasons I'm unclear on, but general disgust with the job and industry had to have played a part. So I was thinking of trying to engineer a reunion of some of these old friends and was about to callC., whose house has always been a natural gathering point, when she called me first -- not to plan a reunion per se, but to tell em that the wife of another of these old friends (not one of the people who got in touch with me) had just died of cancer. He too is planning to quit his long-time job and go to school full-time to learn how to make documentaries. So there are quite a few of us forty-somethings who are having a quiet midlife crisis.

I'm realizing this is not a phenomenon confined to men with stagnant careers and marriages who suddenly dump their wives, marry bimbos half their age and buy little red sports cars. It's something experienced by a lot of us who have "made it" after years of striving -- we got steady if unexciting jobs that pay just about enough, bought homes, had a family with kids who have started school... and then we sat back, took another look at the career and maybe some other aspects of our lives, and in true American fashion were not completely satisfied with what we had. It's a strange thing about human nature: you struggle for years to achieve financial and emotional semblance security and stability. But once you achieve these goals to some degree, then you can focus more on the big picture rather than the shorter-term battles, and another bit of human nature kicks in: the part that craves novelty and change and "more meaning in life." Most often this seems to happen when you're in your 40s, when actually it's a lot harder now to make big changes because you're constrained by the things that go with security (a job with golden handcuffs, a mortgage, a family you love and want to take care of, but that needs stability).

As for myself, I'm taking these pre-nursing classes and also looking for a nearer-term job change, trying to figure out what my priorities are (type of work, money, part-time hours, location) and how to balance them in an ideal situation, but of course I'm still pretty much at the mercy of what jobs are out there. The thing I keep telling myself is not to go from the frying pan into the fire, keeping in sight the advantages of my current situation. But I just hate the feeling of time being wasted when I could be doing something more meaningful and enjoyable with my time. Like blogging 24/7 -- woo hoo! No, not really. What I really want is to be paid a ton of money to work 3-4 days a week as a newspaper reporter and editor with lots of funny, smart and cool people that's within 20 minutes of my house. Then use my non-work time to do make beautiful memories with my kids (cue violin music), smell the flowers, try to write something funny, and of course travel wherever and whenever we like. But I can't seem to find this job description anywhere on Maybe I'm using the wrong search terms.

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