Note – this post is more personal and introspective than usual. You should read it fast before I have second thoughts and delete it.
A friend on Facebook shared an article this weekend that said the biggest threat facing middle aged men is loneliness. While I am surprised that people think it is the biggest threat facing middle aged men, I’m not surprised that middle aged men are lonely. I am a middle aged man. I think I was born a middle aged man. Loneliness has been a constant in my life. I can be in the middle of a crowd, at a party, etc and still feel alone. I have many acquaintances and not many actual friends. I talk to people at work and then to the two people who live in my house and that is the extent of my social life. I do occasionally have a text conversation with my brother.
In person, I pretend a lot of times that I think I am someone that everyone loves, but really, deep down, I always assume I am someone that people don’t really think about at all. I’ve always felt that way. I was part of a social group in high school, but felt that I was the one who didn’t really belong. I felt the same with groups in college and I feel the same today. In every group, I feel like I am the expendable one. I have social anxiety when it comes to parties and other gatherings, so I would rather just not go. This leads to the life referenced above. I spend most of my life isolated from the world. It’s OK now while my family is there, but I am looking toward a lot of alone time when my daughter leaves for college next year.
Another problem is that I have always had more female friends than male friends. I now work in a world that is predominantly women. In the one group I socialize with on a regular basis(I am the expendable one) I am the only man. This also is a limit to developing close friendships. It is harder and more complicated when the friendship is across genders. You always have to be aware of any impressions of impropriety and there are limits on what you can discuss from your personal life.
So, no, I’m not shocked that loneliness is a problem for middle aged men. I would like to say that since I am aware of the issue that I can take steps to do something about it, but that would be a lie. I will continue to spend my time watching TV and reading books when my family is not around. It just seems easier that way.
This is my late day so I’m at home until 12:30 and work 1-9. My wife left for work and then called me to tell me to watch the garage door when I leave because it was really loud when she left. So, even though I am the least mechanically inclined person I know, I decide to go out to look at the door to see if I can determine the problem. Luckily, it turned out to be a manual labor issue, not a mechanical issue. A piece of drywall has come loose and is hanging over part of the garage door mechanism.
This is the perfect job for me. No brains required. Just climbing up and pulling the drywall down. This is complicated by the fact that the door can’t be opened until the drywall is down and the Mustang she inherited from her dad is directly under the drywall and there is not a lot of room for a fat guy like me to squeeze past with a step stool to get to the drywall. So, I put a load of blankets on the car to protect it and eventually was able to angle the drywall around so I could pull it loose and bring it down without damaging the car or myself.
The worst part of the whole thing was what was on top of the drywall. I could see when I started that something was on top of it. I thought it was a plastic bag and didn’t really worry about it. Unfortunately, it was not a plastic bag, but a dead bird. I don’t know how long it had been in our garage or how long it had been dead. All I know is that it came crashing down with the drywall and it was not fun. So, once I worked my way off the stool and through fat man’s squeeze while holding a giant piece of drywall, I had to try to get the dead bird in a plastic bag and in the trash can without touching it and then sweep the feathers and drywall pieces up.
So, there you have a small look in to my glamorous life. I am now using all of that as an excuse to do nothing the rest of the morning.
This weekend was the first weekend in a while where I was actually able to relax. To make it even better, it was a four day weekend. I didn’t do anything exciting. On my birthday leave day on Friday I went out and got some free food from Panera and Dickey’s and watched a movie on DVD. Saturday was so uneventful all I remember is that I took the dog for a walk and watched a basketball game. Sunday I went to church and out to eat with the family for a late birthday celebration. Yesterday I spent hour scanning pictures from 2001. Even so, the four days off makes it really hard to think about heading out in a few minutes to reenter the real world.
I don’t hate my job. I don’t hate working. I’ve just reached the point in my life when I am ready to move on from the career and to the retirement phase of life. I would even take the ability to work from home. Actually, I think I’ve always been at this point. I would have gladly been a stay at home dad if it had been feasible for our family. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never been a career focused person. I do my job to the best of my ability and I do apply for new jobs/promotions when they come up, but I’ve always been someone who would quit to stay at home if given the opportunity. I think this got more pronounced toward the end of my time at the jail. Corrections has a 20 year retirement, so I spent the last few years of my time at the jail watching people I worked with retire knowing that I still had 10-15 years left. I’m closer now, but not close enough.
So, I head back to work today but I would much rather be one of the people who have the ability to spend their morning with friends at Panera instead of heading off to another day at the job. Reentry is hard.
As I started thinking about what to write in my very narcissistic post wishing myself a happy birthday some lyrics from a new Ryan Hamilton & the Traitors song popped in to my head: “I’m still not clean, and I’m not sober, I’m just a little bit smarter and a whole lot older” While I am clean and I am sober(usually) I am pretty smart and I am a whole lot older.
A lot has happened since my last birthday. I changed jobs, leaving the place I had worked for 15 years. I lost my mom. I went to California and went para sailing and lived to tell about it. The United States lost its mind and elected Donald Trump as president. Only two of those things listed(I said a lot and listed a few. Maybe I’m not so smart) are a positive and one of the positives(the new job) had some negatives(leaving friends). Hopefully, this upcoming year will be one where the positives outweigh the negatives.
It’s hard to believe that it’s now been 30 years since I turned 18. My 30 year high school reunion is this summer. How did that happen? I don’t feel like I could be 48. Sure, I’m tired more now. I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. I spend a lot more time at home and hardly any time at all “out on the town.” But I don’t feel old. I just feel boring. Maybe in my case they are the same thing. Maybe I should work on that.
I am inching closer and closer to an empty nest, 50 years old and soon after, retirement. I hope I am inching closer and closer to being a 50 year old empty nester/retiree who spends his time doing fun, active things and not one that watches a lot of TV alone. So, my goal as a 48 year old is to be a 48 year old who does more fun things out of the house. My goal is to be a 48 year old who makes the effort to see his friends he left at his old branch so they remain his friends(if y’all are reading this let’s have coffee/drinks sometime). My goal is to be a 48 year old who is an inspiration and not a cautionary tale. But, my immediate goal for my 4 day weekend(thank you HCLS for birthday leave!) is to eat a lot of free food I got for signing up for restaurant email lists.
This past weekend I went to the ROCK Conference in Ocean City with the youth group from my church. One of the bands that played the conference was Sidewalk Prophets. One of their songs, Prodigal, had some lyrics that really struck me.
Wherever you are, whatever you did
It’s a page in your book, but it isn’t the end
I have always had a problem with dwelling on my past mistakes too much. Sometimes this can lead to a fear of moving forward because you are afraid of making the same mistake again. It can also lead to self esteem issues and a belief that you aren’t good enough because you have made mistakes in the past. I’ve gotten better about this recently, but I still occasionally let past mistakes creep back into my mind. I joke a lot about how great I am, and sometimes I actually believe it, but deep down I’m always afraid I’m not quite good enough. I need to forget the old stuff and focus on making sure the end of my book(I hope there are many more pages) is a good one.
I’ve been thinking a lot already this year about living life with no regrets.
I think these lyrics fit right in with that philosophy. Where I am now does not have to be the end of my book. I need to keep myself open to new experiences and new opportunities. This might mean a change soon. It might mean a new direction when I retire(less than 9 years away). So, I’m going to keep writing my book hoping it will be a book that is an inspiration to others or, perhaps, a comedic cautionary tale.
I was thinking about my upcoming personal schedule and I’m tired just thinking about it. I work today 11-9, tomorrow 9-5, Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 1-5. Thursday night/Friday morning from midnight to 7am I will be at church acting as a monitor for the winter relief homeless shelter. I will come home, try to sleep while my family is home and then, Friday night, go to a friends house and probably stay out too late. I then work 7 days in a row Saturday to Friday, leave work at 3 on Friday to drive home, pick up my daughter and head to church to leave for a youth weekend retreat in Ocean City. We get back in time to stay up late again to watch the Super Bowl and then get up Monday morning to start the work thing all over again, including my speed friending event at my old branch that may or may not get any attendees. I guess maybe mid to late month I might get a chance to just relax. I think I’m getting too old for all of this. I should retire.
The upcoming youth group trip started me thinking about the difference between when I first started working with a youth group and now. My daughter doesn’t believe me when I say the kids in the youth group I worked with at our old church actually liked me. She’s just kidding, but there is a big difference in then and now. When I was first asked to help with the youth group at my old church I was a 26 year old with no kids of my own. I was closer in age to the teenagers than I was to their parents. I was willing to stay up all night at lock-ins, play football, capture the flag, etc. I’m still willing to do all of that. I’m just old, tired and fat now. I also spent more time with the kids back then. I wasn’t just occasionally going on a trip with them. I was teaching Wednesday night Bible study and/or middle school Sunday school, so I saw the kids on a regular basis. It also helped that I was not related to anyone on the group. The dynamic is different when you are a younger adult volunteering than when you are someone’s dad. I still have difficulty adjusting to this new reality of being a random chaperone and not something more.
So, the moral of this post is that I am old and tired and need to stop thinking so much.
I am at work way early because I had to take my car in for repairs and took their shuttle to work. I gave myself plenty of extra time and ended up at work 30 minutes early. So, I decided since I never seem to have time to write, I should take this time to write. The problem is -do I have anything to write about?
2017 has been pretty uneventful for me, which is a good thing after what 2016 had for me. New Year’s Eve was at home watching the Mariah Carey disaster on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. That pretty much set the pace for the year. It has been a regular routine of work, home, church, TV, read, etc. The only aberration was today when my car had warning lights coming on and I just got the call that it is a minor fix. Sounds boring, but I will take boring right now.
I’m still reading the same book I started on January 1. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I am about 800 pages in and have not been bored yet. Only 16o pages to go and I can start on my 2nd book of the year. We have been on a movie watching kick lately. I will list the movies we have watched below ranked from best to least favorite:
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
- Magnificent Seven
- Secret Life of Pets
- Pete’s Dragon
We also watched Blade Runner, but I had seen it before so I didn’t rank it. It was a lot slower pace than what people are used to these days. I will be interested to see how the new one compares.
Football season has ended for me. I will still watch the playoffs, but I have no rooting interest besides not wanting the Patriots or the Steelers to win the Super Bowl. I have moved on to college basketball where Kentucky always guarantees I will have a winning team to watch.
So, there you have it. A brief synopsis of my boring life.