Reconciliation: Recovering From a Mid-Life Crisis at 27

In migrating my self-hosted installation to my previously-abandoned wordpress.com blog, I’ve found myself re-reading past entires as I’ve been going through and changing the visibility on past posts I’d forgotten were still on the web; I archived everything when I was self-hosting, and you know…consistency. One entry that stood out at me was one that I composed back in August of this year regarding my personal journey in isolation throughout 2012. I can vividly recall my mindset when I wrote that: I felt unburdened and free, yet lost. I’d been a highly self-critical introspective mental-emotional train wreck for so long that when I allowed myself to let go and move past that, I didn’t feel like I had an identity of my own. So I wrote about the circumstances, the inspiration behind my decision, and the result (which, admittedly, is something that I’ve done many times before, each one feeling like I failed to capture all I really meant to say). Though the writing was on the wall throughout the entire length of that post, the one thing I didn’t touch upon was what the core issue was: I had been recovering from a conflict of identity and lack of self-esteem — a “midlife crisis” in my 20’s. This is what working through that has been like.

Depression

I tried to work these things out at the age of 25 when I first identified and acknowledged them, but it was like working a math problem that just didn’t add up. How could someone who’s constantly told that he’s capable and produces great work still be wading in the shallow end of the career pool at college-graduate age? How could someone who grew up knowing a large loving family turn out to be a person whose family is his greatest source of emotional anguish? Why, if I’m as smart as I think I am, have so many of the choices in life I’ve made turned out to be costly mistakes? Every day felt like I was trapped, confined to an contradictory existence. Day to day life felt like I was trapped behind an invisible screen, watching some meaningless life unfold. I remained functional; I went through the motions — went to work, hung out with friends, spent time with the little family I still had an active relationship with — but at the end of the day, I felt hollow and worthless, a pitiful jumble of inner turmoil and self doubt.

Resistance

In 2011, things improved financially to where I was finally able to stabilize myself, and could afford more time and mental energy to really focus on self-improvement. Though I’d been trying for quite some time to sort things out alone, convinced that I could solve my own problems by myself, I finally caved and decided to seek out professional assistance. So I started seeing a therapist.
I’d wager most people picture a patient lying down on a couch having a cathartic emotional breakdown when the subject of therapy comes up. I’ll admit, that was part of what encouraged me to give it a shot; maybe if I just loaded someone up with all the details and have him systematically hit me with each one, I could just cry it out and move on. The reality (which is much better than what I’d been secretly hoping for) was rather ordinary. It was like paying to have the conversation I needed to have. To discuss my innermost truths with someone of an objective and analytical mindset, not with someone who’d be quick to feel sympathy or validate my opinion as friends are prone to do. Someone who would carefully listen to what I was actually saying, and know the right things to say and the right questions to ask. That helped alleviate a fair amount of the pressure, and for awhile, things were looking up. Then things in the then-present personal life took a steep nosedive. I hit a breaking point, and I snapped. So I made my decision to have my 2012.

Self-Exile

In that year alone, I put a distance between “me” and myself. I stopped seeing my past as a linear history, and more like a collection of different people that I’ve been. It was partially externalizing all the chaos in my head, and partially an invitation to escapism. I put serious consideration into the idea of leaving all my social media accounts deactivated, getting a new phone number, disappear and head off to the opposite end of the country, and just completely start over during those first few months. While this approach helped me in getting some needed distance to get a better perspective on my sense of self, there was an unintended consequence. With every day restricted to absolute minimum social interactions and lots of time with my thoughts, there was nothing to really trigger emotional response or engagement. Day after day without the company of friends of the comfort of family to look forward to. No love, no happiness, no sadness, just…me. I stopped processing emotions, and was still in a detached state, only without the saddening pull of depression.

Reconciliation

When you spend that much time with a person, you inevitably have to make peace with them. This year, I focused on filtering out all the negative “programming” I’ve picked up through life and reconnecting with all those “past selves” I turned my back on. Around the same time I wrote that post on 2012 in August, I read an article on artofmanliness.com that analyzed the quote “the child is father to the man,” and described something very similar to what I’d been feeling in regard to my own history. This November, I toyed with the idea of partaking in National Novel Writing Month. As I did some research on story structure, I read about the “Hero’s Journey”. I tried translating my own experience into the monomyth model, and realized why it is I’ve been having such a hard time writing about this all. I thought I would find myself at the final stages in the model. Ultimately, I placed myself towards the beginning, at the step labeled Atonement with the Father. Since then, I’ve reconciled myself with the child I used to be, and hold in such high regard. I accept that he’s gone through some heavy ordeals in life that have led him to a place of unhappiness, and that his story is mine. The grief I carried for so long is not a result from an inability to meet societal standards or the expectations of others, but simply in having failed to deliver on the promise I used to hold, like I somehow managed to make all the wrong choices in life for myself in spite of my better qualities.

Redemption

Things now are, for the most part, in a pretty good place. I’ve got a laundry list of things that I need to get done in the near future – namely, developing a second income stream and finding something to replace my current primary – and some financial hurdles that I’ll be carrying over into the coming year. Those details aside, I feel whole and in complete control of myself, something I’ve been struggling to regain for a very long time now. I’ve rediscovered my inner warrior, that part of me that is fearless and thrives in adversity. I’ve been actively exercising, running 5+ miles on a regular basis. I’ve also been buckling down and pursuing mastery in the various areas of interest I’ve acquired over the years, my present focus placed on writing and getting to know computer programming by learning Python.
When I was a child, I envisioned my adult self to be someone who is genuinely interesting to meet, one of those people who are knowledgeable and proficiently skilled in multiple disciplines. Now, after so much internal struggle, I’ve remembered who I really see myself as, and have belief in “me” to give myself the chance to become that person.

Boxed, Sealed, and Archived

Some time around the middle of July, I decided (after giving the matter lots of consideration) to temporarily un-publish all of the posts on the blog. After my last post, I kept reading through the archive and decided that I needed to wipe the slate. When I first decided to start keeping a blog a couple of years ago, my intended outcome was a lot different than it is today. At the time, I was struggling with a lot internally and had started actively reading on the topic of personal development/self-improvement. I imagined compiling, over time, a kind of public online journal chronicling all of my internal/external changes as I sorted things out. Unfortunately, what I ended up drafting wasn’t as progressive and meaningful as I’d hoped. Instead, I ended up writing would have best been kept as offline DayOne journal entires — the thoughts and feelings that shouldn’t be readily available to a search engine query.

Personally, I’d have no personal issue with leaving them publicly available. I’m constantly cognizant of how much I’ve changed throughout my life, so much to the point where I’ve ended up externalizing different periods of my past and see them as the different people I’ve been over the years. In turn, I treat the things I write as what’s one day going to be the past of my future self. I’m human and imperfect, but not ashamed of myself in any way. Same goes for photographs; I don’t subscribe to the idea of deleting all unflattering photos of yourself. I don’t see a point in creating a record of your life if it’s not going to be honest.

However, in this hyper-networked era of social networking, mobile computing, and evolved search engine technologies, it’s imperative to put your best foot forward and craft an online presence that leaves a good impression. All of my existing content doesn’t support that goal, and it’s certainly not what I’d want a neighbor or prospective employer seeing first. Not only that, but that narrative doesn’t suit me anymore. I’m not the 17 year old that developed that writing style over years on LiveJournal. With all of the information available on the web, it’s time to step up the game and start creating things that are worthy of consideration.

So, now that that’s settled, let’s get this show on the road.

Assessment

Since this isn’t the first time I’ve set out to make a big lifestyle change, I think I can call this force of habit by now. Still, I always reason to myself that it’s good to write up a post like this to have a point of reference, the idea being that I want to one day be able to look back at this and find it hard to believe that my life used to be like it is now.

0 to 26, in 5 Minutes

When I was a kid, I was your normal kid. As things started getting unstable at home throughout the years, a lot of my dietary choices were left in the hands of my dad, who always defaulted to fast food. So I got “husky”. As I grew older, those bad diet habits got worse, as did my weight – I topped out at around 265 lbs in my sophomore year of high school. Up until that point in my life I’d always been comfortable in my own body. Physically, I still was. Mentally, I was over it. I started waking up before the sun on a daily basis and going on long morning runs. Once I started working and managed to afford my own gym membership, I found that I actually do like spending prolonged periods of time working out. By the time I hit 21, I was down near 200 lbs – not all the way there, but not too bad either. Compared to my old photos from high school, I looked like a completely different person.
Then at 23, things started taking a turn for the worse. Things in the personal life and with work all started crashing around me. Now, I’ve gotten accustomed to things being pretty bad in life – I’ve been struggling with a personal depression dating back since 2005. But that was the beginning of an entirely new downward spiral in life. At 25, I finally found myself bouncing back from everything. I started trying to get myself to care again. As motivation, I forced myself to part with my hair that I’m so very fond of, and told myself that I’d only grow it out once I hit goal weight. Instead of getting motivated, it opened the door for me to turn into someone else. As the problems piled on, I lost sight of myself. I let myself go, and really packed on the on the pounds.

Now

Presently, I find myself halfway through 26. One hand, it feels pretty lame that earlier in life I’d planned to have taken care of this by 21 permanently. Still, rather than dwell in the past, it’s time to look to the future. Now, the weight problem extends beyond image and self-esteem. For me, it’s a contradiction of the perceptions I have of my actualized self. In other words, I’m not me. I’m not living a life that’s in line with who I really see myself as. I’m not as young and stout as I used to be. Age is going to start rearing its ugly head at me if I’m not ready for it. In a sense, I kind of feel like it already has. So now, it’s important for me to finally get this over with. Because I need to do damage control on what I’ve put my body through up until now and take care of myself for the long run, and because I need to really start living my life like its supposed to be. What it’s like now is pretty much the complete opposite of that.
Right now, I’m up near 230 lbs. I’m not entirely sure, since I haven’t been to the gym in about 3 weeks – I’ll be sure to take care of that soon.
I alternate between three sets of pants, since they’re the only things that fir me in my closet and I don’t want to waste money on clothes that aren’t going to fit me in the near future. I’m running low on shirts that fit appropriately as well. My dress style is boring and limited because of this.
I feel uncomfortable in my body at all times. I have a hard time with prolonged sitting in chairs, probably due to a combination of “office ass” and my body screaming at me to get up and move around. This isn’t the fattest I’ve ever been, but it’s been the most I’ve ever been so constantly aware of it. I’m highly attuned to all the problems that are resulting from it, like terrible posture. I’ve got a lot of goals in life, and they’re not going to happen feeling like this.
I’m a heavy user of marijuana and cigarettes. Though my usage over the past year has spiked alarmingly since I’ve been using them as emotional crutches throughout my hardships and in combination with my therapy sessions, I’m really starting to feel the adverse affects. Furthermore, I feel like I’ve reached a point where they’re just no longer useful to me. They’ve been as “helpful” as they can possibly be, and it’s time for them to go. At this point, they’re nothing but a barrier between me and my actualized self.
Now that I’m not so young anymore, I’m also highly aware of the dangers of failing to do anything about this. There’s a history of diabetes in my family. Much as it scares me to admit it, I wouldn’t be surprised to find I’m pre or near diabetic. Since I don’t have the luxury of health insurance, my only viable course of action at this point in time is to take charge of the things I can control, which is admittedly quite a lot.

A Current State of Affairs

It’s been a very interesting time in my life lately. I’ve recently turned 25. Even though I’ve been getting back in the habit of maintaining an active handwritten journal, I’ve been meaning to get back to my blogging – I’ve got big plans that I need to get in motion. Looking back on my previous entries, I see that I managed to get everything setup and ready to go. Too bad let myself get so caught up with the personal life and didn’t follow through. Since then, lots of things have changed. I’ve re-centered myself, and have gotten back in touch my old fire. I’ve constantly felt like I’ve let myself fall behind of where I should be over the past years, but I now realize to what extent. There are so many things that I want to do with my life, and I have done next to nothing to bring those goals to fruition. Now that I’ve regained sight of those things, I’m committed to catching up to where I need to be. However, the historian in me dictates that I should take a snapshot of how everything is now, so that I can one day compare it to what will be.

Health

This is quite possibly the aspect of my life that draws most of my attention. To put it simply, I’ve really let myself go. Two years ago, I was actively exercising and in the best shape I’ve been in since I was a kid. This says a lot, because even then I wasn’t in shape. I used to be a normal child. Growing up, my mom cooked a lot of “rich” food, and my dad always delegated his nutritional responsibilities to me to the closest fast food eatery. These eating habits persisted until after I graduated high school, when I made the conscious decision to avoid fast food burger joints like the plague. I started running every morning, and managed to trim down a lot. Over the years, working out has been an on-again off-again thing with me. This past year, I gave in and caved to pressure, stopped caring about myself in many aspects. Not in a depressive helpless way, just an indifferent one. I went back to bad eating habits, stopped exercising, even let go of my usual meticulous attention to how I look; I stopped my facial care regiment and groomed only as necessary.
Presently, I simply just don’t feel good. When I look into a mirror, I do not recognize myself. I’ve become a really heavy smoker, bordering on a pack a day. I have a bunch of pants hanging in my closet that used to be in regular use, and now rotate between two tightly fitting pairs of pants that even a few months ago were loose. I’m afraid of working out because I fear that my physical limits have degraded so much that I’ll tire out in mere minutes.
Now, I want my life back, and I want it to be better than it was. I more or less want to become a jock. I want to shed all of my excess body fat, I want to become a moderate athlete, I want to become proficient at activities such as rock climbing, biking, and gymnastics. I want to push this body to it’s true limit, and shape it into something impressive. I want to go out clubbing with my shirt off. In short, I want to be healthy and I want to be as attractive as possible. On my way there, I’m going to log and blog the process religiously.

Finances & Work

At the beginning of this year, rather than make resolutions, I told myself I was simply tired of being fat and poor. Money is something that’s always been a bit of a problem for me. I grew up used to having money readily available, thanks to the family business on my dad’s side. Granted, we weren’t rich per se, but I never found myself lacking and always had the latest and greatest in tech and entertainment. Now as an adult, there are a lot of things that I would like to have, but can’t afford. Technological toys, fancy clothing, the list goes on. However, when I do encounter money, rather than save responsibly, I splurge. That’s something I need to work on.
Currently, I’m working 18-20 hours a week at RankPay doing account management and customer support. I got a raise not too long ago, and have been talked to about managing the company Twitter account. I met with Shawn recently, and he wants to get me up to snuff with advanced SEO so that I can author the company blog as well. There’s a lot of potential with my current job, and that’s something I plan to explore in the future. However, short term, I’m planning to pick up a second job, preferably in a restaurant setting again. My primary financial goals this year are to get to a place where I regularly have over $1000 in both my checking and savings accounts, and to finally get a new car.

Education

I’m going back to school this year, and actively working on my degree. I know that it’s not something that I need, but my desire to have it cannot be ignored.
Aside from the degree, there’s a lot of other interests that I’ve always had and neglected that I now want to cultivate. Graphic design, web design, programming, music…I’m going to become well versed in all of these things. I will become a Photoshop Master and competent designer. I will learn how to read sheet music and play guitar. I will learn CSS, JavaScript, and C++.

Spirituality

One big thing that I’ve recently started to really analyze is the meaning of the word “man”. I honestly feel that living up to the qualities of the word “man” and “woman” are something that are truly lost amongst people my age these days. Maybe it’s a geographical thing, living in southern California, but it feels like the defining characteristics of those words are things that very little people have these days, and even a smaller number care to attain. I’m not one of them. I want to train myself to be someone that earns respect, that’s very direct and efficient, that possesses knowledge on a varied number of subjects. I’ve got a lot that I need to get done. I’ve attempted to do it in the past, and I’ve failed multiple times. Now, I set out to do it, with failure no longer an option. I’m 25 now – time to become who I really am.