By: Adam Sutton
Happy New Year!
The last year has been defined by reflection and soul searching, which manifested itself in this project, OnceEveryThirty. Said in another way, I made the story of my midlife crisis public and found 30 other people to share their stories too. Originally, I thought there would be more politics, more complaining about the President, more of the anger and resentment that inundates Facebook feeds and internet comment sections. Instead, people have largely shared their experiences of love and loss; stories of friends both furry and human; opinions on school and work; observations about junk, family and air travel. The themes people touch on are universal and painstakingly simple. It’s been enough to make me question whether I’ve made life too complicated.
In some ways, my life is an isolated one. My concerns revolve around the needs and wants of children under 6, and the hopes and desires of mid-life adults. All my friends fall into these categories. I don’t go out to bars. I don’t have any idea what retirement might be like. I’m past the point of courting love, and I can’t even remember the days when I had an afternoon to binge watch whatever I pleased without interruption.
But, being home for the holidays, I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of people in very different stages of life. My parents both retired while I was home; their days of toiling in the salt mine are behind them. To me, work seems like an endless slog with no end in sight. I can’t fathom retirement. Talking with them about how they were planning to adjust to a life without work, it was eye opening how their views of work differ from my own.
I watched my kids interact with their older cousin who’s focus is the latest Nerf gun and video game controller. It seems frivolous to me now, but when I was in 6th grade and my friend Sean got a joystick for Gunship 2000, it seemed like life could not have been better. It’s easy to dismiss how simple life used to be.
My sister-in-law brought her new man friend around. It’s been ages since Adrienne and I spent that first holiday with each other’s family. The stress and joy of bringing this new important person around is a distant memory now. I can’t imagine life without her family. I assume I’m going to have hours of card playing ahead of me when I visit her family. It’s a given, and I get that experience nowhere else.
Then, there are the great grandparents. My kids are lucky to know theirs. I never knew mine. The great grandparents are in a stage of life that scares me. They’ve lived so much. They have so many memories. They talk about their weekly card game and the “newbies” who are 86. I love their stories and the memories. I love watching their faces light up to see, hug and interact with my kids. It’s the best of life. Unfortunately, it’s also the hardest part of life for me. So much of what I am trying to figure out now is about charting a path that will leave me satisfied, fulfilled and happy later in life. Will I be able to watch my kids and grandkids full of joy knowing I did everything to help them? Will my kids get to look at me and feel joy, not resentment, when I interact with their kids? Will I be able to focus my attention and energies today so that I am not bitter and full of regret tomorrow?
I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions. I’m continuing the journey I started this year. After being home, that journey means trying to enjoy each stage of life for what it is. For me, now, that means finding satisfaction in helping with a craft project or coloring at the kitchen table and finding ways to feel worthwhile professionally. The journey will change. I accept that. I long for that. I look forward to sharing this change and growth with you in the year ahead. I appreciate your support and enjoy every minute of the New Year!