My dad died when he was 50. Apparently, he was the third generation to pass at such a landmark which has prompted my mum to encourage me to see a doctor to see if there is any underlying health condition which are causing us male Viponds to expire so prematurely.
If I am to reach the half century, then my mid-life crisis should have occurred at 25. But instead, it seems to have occurred at 30. Perhaps I am destined for a decade longer on the planet than what I am due.
In truth, a mid-life crisis is a harsh assessment to what many may feel is more a covid-inspired awakening. A pandemic prompted refresh. A reset.
For the casual visitor, you may have noticed that this blog hosts the intermittent reflection on life and calls to walk the path less travelled. Anti-modern propaganda to break the stereotypes of what we are told is modern living. Every few years, it appears this theme is one I keep returning to, no matter where I am in the world.
Instead of condemning them to a fate of being eternally lost in my browsing history, I would have done well to remember the words I wrote and the thoughts that prompted them. For in all honesty, I have not been true to them. I have not been true to myself. These last few years have been inauthentic. They have been false.
In the depths of the winter lockdown earlier this year, after 9-months of existence under the cloud of the pandemic, I struggled to sleep. For a multitude of reasons, my thoughts at night constantly spoke of my own mortality. For weeks, all I had in my head as it rested wearily on the pillow, was the knowledge that one day I would die. One day, all of this will end. Some nights saw very little sleep, others saw slumber only through exhaustion under the reassuring glow of a bedside lamp.
I read voraciously at this time. Why was I thinking this? What had prompted these thoughts? What can I do to improve this situation? The fear I carried could not be overcome and I chose to confront it. I leaned into the thoughts that one day I will no longer be here and devoured books about living well and dying with regret. I also sought a therapist – an existential therapist no less, for it was the big questions I felt I needed answers to.
There have been periods in my life where I have felt this way before. This death anxiety, this mortal whispering. Nothing was as intense as last winter, but it wasn’t a completely new experience. I remember even as a young child, only three or four years old, I was fully aware of death and that one day I would die. I have no idea where that came from, but I knew I feared it. My mum would try and comfort me at night, telling me that it wouldn’t happen for a long, long time.
Her words did little to help. A long, long time still meant that someday it would happen.
Through fortnightly zoom calls, my therapist and I explored the issue. We spoke about work, my childhood, the loss of my father, my nomadic life, relationships, friendships, and morals among other things. Her lines of questioning shed new light on my behaviour and my actions, and it reminded me of statements I had made in the past, of advice I had long ignored.
I believe there is a shrinking element of mystery to who I am as a person. That rock has been chiselled away over many years and though some details are still to emerge, the basic form is clear. I know what I enjoy and what I don’t, I know what careers would poison me, I know what actions and lifestyles are harmful and shallow, and I know “mundane” and “comfortable” are two anchors which would see me sink and ultimately drown.
For too long, I had been ignoring these. My inner compass was telling me to go one way and I was walking in completely the opposite direction. London, with its mass of humanity, its constant wall of noise, its grey, suffocating concrete structures. Brand London was everything that I knew I hated, but economic pressures had led me there and other factors coerced me into staying, or at least distracted me long enough so that I didn’t contemplate leaving.
Without those distractions I was alone. Alone to think. Alone to be. Then it became obvious.
Take it from me, your mind screaming at you at 2am, telling you that one day you are going to die is an alarm clock of nuclear proportions. You ignore these types of signals at your peril.
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