FulcrumNo crises in sight – June 2023
I turn forty in a few months. Forty is an interesting one. It’s a reasonable checkpoint – call it halfway between birth and death. Hopefully not quite halfway, but you never know. Strangely (perhaps?) this doesn’t strike me as a scary thought.
Coincidentally, I just left the job that has formed the core professional experience of my life so far. After riding the rapids of the tech industry for the past two decades, I’m taking this chance to “eddy out” for a while.
My wife and I talk about “The Script.” Both children of the (early) 80s, we were taught the script by heart through popular culture and the conventions of our parents’ generation.
- Go to school
- Find a mate
- Get a job
- Get married
- Have kids
- Buy a house
- Save for retirement...
We were lucky – the script worked for us. Many of the main plot points in the script were accessible and desirable. But the script only takes you to a certain point before it runs out. After a while you have to start making up your own script. Reading your own meaning into the spaces between those plot points, or the ones you pencil in along the way.
Will you spend that time wisely? Who will you spend it with? Will you enjoy it? Will you challenge yourself? Will you continue to grow and change, and love the people in your life as they grow and change?
How will you leave your mark on the world? How will you show up in your community? Who will you teach? Who will you follow? Will you be part of the cure or part of the disease?
I find myself poised between two generations.
Ahead – my parents. In good physical and mental health, thankfully. But still: how many more years? A decade is planned for. Two decades would be wonderful. Three decades? Implausible at best. No matter how you cut it – less time ahead than behind for us to spend together.
Behind – our children. Our two amazing boys, swiftly maturing into young men. Wrapped up with all of our hopes and fears. Still nestled in the cocoon of our home and constant attention. Our eldest will move out in a decade, and his little brother shortly thereafter. This period when they’re little – where they’re safe in our bubble – has an implacable countdown attached to it.
In the middle: me. Caring for both and being cared for in return. One link on the infinite chain that extends back into deep time.
In some ways I feel like I’m just getting started. In others I’m starting to recognize a decline for the first time. My eyes are certainly not getting any sharper. My beard is getting saltier by the day.
The next ten years
I wrote this down on my last birthday, sitting at one of my favourite lunch places in Vancouver on a quiet sunny afternoon. I happened to open this notebook again last week. I couldn’t help but read into the fact that this was written at the midpoint of this particular notebook, the staples showing through.
The next ten years...
- are the start of Act 2
- might be the last with Dad
- are the last with kids at home
- are a chance to enjoy our luck
- will renew a relationship to last a lifetime
- write and publish
- learn to play music – I can play a little guitar and piano, but not well enough to meaningfully play music with and for others
- 10,000 hours of woodworking – this is 20hrs/week for a decade
- foster deeper friendships
- support and grow with Jess
- be a best friend to the boys
- build and maintain
- live like you’re going to live to 100
- keep up to the kids
- the wild places: great American parks, the far North, Japan by foot –this is certainly only a narrow slice of the long list in my head
- beauty: Costa Rica, New Zealand – some of the places I love best
- a year abroad
- build skills and follow interests
- return to school?
That seems like a lot, but 10 years is a long time after all. The common thread seems to be a lot of Type II fun. A lot of deepening. And an emphasis on presence in the slow now.
It also doesn’t have much of anything to do with a next job. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a next job, but I really have no idea what it will be yet. One thing I do know is that it will emerge when it’s time.
The Mississippi meander map by Harold Fisk
The primary feeling I have in this moment of suspension between childhood and old age, birth and death, is one of wonderment. Of beginning again.
I’m here, alive, healthy, and happy. With enough experience to know how rare and valuable that is. On this one planet that implausibly exists in the cosmic void. With decades more in which to explore and learn. What more could you ask for?