If this gets too obnoxious, let me apologize in advance. A little.
I’m not trying to sound like a jerk here- I mean, how hard do I need to work at that?- but is there anything more typically mid-life than for all of us to be talking about our career regrets?
When I lost my mind in my mid-life crisis of 2000-2001, I was lethally obsessed with regrets over my life. My career. My marriage. Ministry. Every decision I’d ever made rose up and pointed at me, saying “WRONG!” Of course, the life that seemed the best was writer. Thinker. Speaker. I spent vast amounts of time HATING my seminary classmates who are in big churches. I hated OBI, even though OBI saved my life and let me actually spend it on something significant. I declared Denise the enemy for making me think about money and security rather than doing what I wanted. I wrote so many poems on regret that I could have published an anthology. Happiness, career, relationships— they all infected and tortured me for parts of two years.
One of the many things that helped me through this was to realize that as an American, I have an exaggerated view of the possibilities of my own happiness. I had bought deeply into the idea- promoted by all kinds of “success in life” types- that I should be maxed out on happiness, and if I wasn’t, then I could be immensely tortured with a really good excuse note.
It’s interesting how God showed this to me: the teenagers I work with have the raw material for immense amounts of happiness, but most of them are miserable, angry, bitter, depressed…all because they can’t have what they want. I preach to these kids about real happiness. I talk about reasonable happiness. I talk about connecting the dots between self-knowledge, choices and a workable definition of happiness.
I just didn’t want to apply any of this to myself. I wanted to be angry at God, Denise, fate, life, a thousands things in the past I could no longer get to….and I wanted to be self-consumed in the present. And, of course, to reward myself with the things that made me feel good.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe mid-life career changes are good and wonderful things when they are possible. But I also am growing to understand that I need to revise my definition of happiness into something Jesus would recognize. I really would like to see the sermon series on “Jesus and the mid-life American male.” I need to hear that word. Maybe I need to write that word.
Anyway…you twenty-somethings just shut up. Us old guys are crying in our beer and we don’t want to hear all this cheerful chat. (jn)
I'm here. 40 years old and pissed at myself because I'm going through some sort of mid-life crisis. I've been depressed. I've wallowed in the "what might have beens". I've grown angry at my wife. I've grown angry at God. I've cried at night because my anger is unfounded and brings me shame. I rail at the world and it laughs in my face.
Do I have regrets? Hell yes. If you don't, congrats. You're a better person than I. Can I do anything about those regrets? Probably not unless Doc Brown shows up with his DeLorean. And even then, as I think about it, I don't think I'd change anything.
Why? Because of the stuff I don't regret. My wife. My kids. My jobs. My experiences. My faith. My journey. It wouldn't be the same if I had to go back and "fix" what went wrong. I wouldn't be me anymore. I'd be an idealized version that would, in my mind, be a flat, two-dimensional, Stepford Me.
I bought into what was sold me as the "Victorious Life". Hah. I'm a big, fat sinner who struggles through life like the rest of you. Every morning I drag my weary carcass out of bed and sit down with God and my Bible. Sometimes out of a sense of duty. Sometimes out of excitement. Sometimes I learned nothing and felt that God was far away. Sometimes I was struck by my own sin and cried at the fact that regardless, God loved. Loves me. Will always love me.
For some of you reading this (both of you?), you're probably thinking, "Gee Eric, get a grip! This is life! I know...but it's my life and I'll cry if I want to!
And I wouldn't trade if for anything. This is me. This is my life. The ride ain't over and I don't know where the hell it's gonna take me but I do know the destination and it's worth the ride just to get there.