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October 20, 2013

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jonnybardo

I'm not exactly sure what middle age is--looking at the Wikipedia page I see ranges from around 35 to 65, with 40-60 seemingly the most common definition (although some are now saying 45 is a more accurate beginning). Maybe with increasing life expectancy, middle age ends around the time social security kicks in, so let's say "early 40s to early 60s," which makes you in the heart of it, my friend. I suppose its like the colors of a rainbow; there's a gradual transition from one color to the next, but when you're in "red" you know it. Maybe we could say that 40-44 is transitional or "early middle age"; 45-60 is "true middle age" and 61-65ish is transitonal, or "late middle age."

I turn 40 in a couple weeks so am on the cusp of early middle age. I don't feel it. I mean, I don't feel as physically young as I did ten years ago, and I feel wiser (or at least less rash) and without some of the hangups I had in my 20s and early 30s. But I still feel youthful and, in a way, like I'm not a "real adult." There was a movie I saw recently in which a college professor said something to the effect that "Its one of the dirty secrets of humanity - no one feels old inside."

So I think its a mind-set and, for me, as a counselor-in-training, I feel that a "youthfulness of spirit" is very healthy. As Ursula K Le Guin once said, "the creative adult is the child who survived." Part of this could manifest as curiosity and a willingness to try new things...like smart phones! One of the nice things about newer technologies is that to some degree you can pick and choose. You can decide which aspects of it you want to engage in, and which you don't. I've never tweeted or used a hashtag, but I did recently get an iphone and, to be honest, I love it (Watch Recon has an app, by the way - very dangerous to be able to browse it at any time of the day). The iphone is, like most or all Apple products, brilliantly designed and very easy to get started with.

I have been texting for a few years and love it, for two reasons: It let's me avoid awkward phone conversations that don't need to be longer than a brief exchange, and also it gives me another way to interact with my wife. Maybe I'm in faculty meeting and she wants to know if I want lentil or black bean soup for dinner, or maybe its me sending her a brief anecdote about something our girls did. It doesn't in any way subtract from my life, from intimacy or authentic communication, it does what technology is supposed to do - it augments the good stuff.

That said, there's always the danger of misuse, and as you have said, we don't yet know the effects that all of this technology - laptops, tablets, video games, smartphones, now smart-watches and Google glasses - is going to have on us, both physiologically and culturally. This is part of the reason that I minimize it with my daughters. They (at age 5 and 8) don't use computers or tablets. We let them watch a couple movies or nature programs a week, but not excessively so. They won't have their own cell-phones until, I don't know, 13 maybe? We'll see what the context is in 5 years.

I teach at a Waldorf high school and if you know anything about Waldorf education, it has a strong luddite and techno-phobic element. A large part of this is due to the belief that too much "screen time" and also early reading and left-brain development leads to stunted imaginations. But there's a balance, and I feel some of my colleagues are in denial of the world we live in. My view is one of moderation. And as far as my kids go, not denying them "worldly pleasures," but trying to keep the emphasis on imaginative play, on being outside in the natural world, etc.

Anyhow, that's a bit of a tangent from your initial post. But I would say, you might find you like a smartphone - especially an iPhone (you use an Apple computer, right?).

StarHalo

There's no drug use for the protagonist of Breaking Bad, but the plot goes waaaaay deeper than just a man feeling irrelevant, I'd need a post as long as Johnny's to scratch the surface. Highly recommended though, and know that the series doesn't really show its depth until midway through the second season, it's mostly action and backdrop until then.

Anthony Hopkins recently commented on binge-watching Breaking Bad and showered the cast and crew with praise, that's quite a recommendation..

Bill

I haven't seen Breaking Bad. I had understood, however, that it is the story of a man who decides to give up his day to day existence working for The System and instead decides to sample the freedom and excitement of the True Entrepreneurial Spirit.

He becomes successful through market research, devotion to product quality, and the sort of disregard for convention, public opinion, and petty government regulation which has made American Capitalism great!

(runs real REAL fast and hides) :)

Keith Beesley

I don't have a tablet, and I use an ordinary "dumb" cell phone, no texting or Internet access. The Internet of course is great in many respects--instant access to tons of information about every subject under the sun--but heavy use of it has definitely shortened my attention span. I start reading an article, get bored, and jump to something else. I can't remember the last time I read a book or a paper magazine cover-to-cover. I guess this could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing depending on one's pointof view.

Thomas

I'll see your Greta Garbo and Sophia Loren, and raise you one Myrna Loy and Hedy Lamar!

I can text, only because I use an iPhone. When I lived in Germany and the UK, in the early naughties (00-04) I had to text because it was so prevalent throughout the EU--way more popular than in the US yet. When I got back to the states I went cold turkey--because I hated it. Then came the iPhone and every friend sending me text messages.

Jeff, honestly, I don't get most pop culture references these days. My wife and I haven't had cable/satellite/anything since 2007. We live in rural western NC and I only have a 26" TV hooked up to a small antenna that can only receive our local PBS station (which is 3 digital channels).

I don't miss TV. I do miss most pop culture references, though!

-Thomas

Ed

You will be relevant until your girls are 18 and leave for college, or at least until they get driver's licenses and cars. If you retire, the relevance factor of your life will plummet drastically. You'll be amazed then how relevant you were when you were middle-aged.

John

Breaking Bad was an amazing show. One of the better ones ever produced. It's smart, tight, quirky, and visually beautiful.

As I read about your plight a lesser known work by George Orwell popped into mind called "Coming Up For Air."

It's not a dystopian novel, rather portrays a present day (as of it's 1939 publication) character living in England during the war, and recalling a simpler time from his childhood.

What I take from the book is that the process of becoming middle aged is eerily similar for all of us.

herculodge

I'm looking forward to reading that Orwell novel (just read sample on Amazon and it looks like my cup of tea). Thanks for the recommendation.

StarHalo

Thomas: Hulu/Netflix/Amazon Prime, it's all there, and cheaper than cable/satellite..

A. Black

That's not all they don't know. According to the link below PA university students don't know what the Holocast was and asked which country Adolf Hitler was the leader of one said "Amsterdam".

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/16/the-incredibly-depressing-answers-college-students-gave-when-asked-what-the-holocaust-was-and-where-it-began/

(NJ students do apparently know the answers.)

¾ Blind

Discontented about middle age? Sounds like male mental pause. The only solace I can offer is that like the terrible twos, puberty, teen angst, etc. middle age is just another phase in life that every other human older than thou has experienced and survived on the other side. I'm 53 and I think I am comfortable with the realization that I have gone as far in my profession as I will advance, and wish to advance. I am okay in not keeping up with the latest in pop culture. This is from a kid who, during the '70s, listened to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 religiously and could name the top 10 songs each week. BTW, I first heard "male mental pause" in the movie "Oh God" starring George Burns and John Denver. Now, there are two names that were huge back in the day but I bet few under 30 can identify.

Angelo

Good entry. Blind: I'm 2-3 years younger than you---and I listened to AT40 every Sunday, 2:00-6:00 PM, on WILK, Wilkes-Barre, PA. I knew the countdown too, and I still remember some of Kasem's stories about the performers too----why Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. changed his name to John Denver for example! (his given name was too long to fit on one line of a 45RPM record in normal sized font). Sad news about Kasem lately by the way. In any event---I love where I am at in life. Middle age for me is better than youth----better than the college years or then my 30s. My only depression about it is that it means I'm closer to death. Aside from that----I'm loving it. I lost my wife a few years ago and am the single parent to a nine year old----so the death thing freaks me out, particularly because an elective surgery last year went terribly bad and I need more surgery early next year to fix things---makes me worry how my son will do if I'm not here for him. Otherwise, I'm all over this middle-age thing. I do try to keep up with newer pop culture so I can ridicule it with my 20-something co-workers, who surprisingly, often agree with me. No tattoos yet, but one of the young ladies told me I'd be "a bad ass" if I get a tattoo to camo my surgery scars when all of this is done. I can adapt!

jonnybardo

Angelo, when a young lady presents you with a qualification for badasshood, you follow her directions.

I suppose someone needs to say it: "Youth is wasted on the young."

It is interesting how many responses this thread has gotten; Jeff, it could present you with a clear direction forward: a blog that is part support group for middle age men. Seeing as I'm just a couple weeks shy of my 40th, I guess I can be part of the gang.

Psychologically speaking, I see middle age as the time in which Unfinished Business starts showing up. Not everyone experiences this so directly, but it might be a kind of growing inner pressure to do the things that you've always wanted to do, to have the experiences you've longed for, etc. Sometimes this manifests as an affair(s), travel, a new career or hobby.

Hopefully, though, the subconscious drive to conquer the world (Nietszche's "will to power") has lessened, or rather transformed into what Maslow called "self-actualization" - the need to actualize one's potentials as a unique individual, which is based less on self-esteem and achievement goals and more on a kind of inherent creative urge and an acceptance of oneself. The 40s are frequently tumultuous as one transitions--often kicking and screaming--from the attempt to "beat the world," to a more harmonious co-operation, surrender, and hopefully fruition of one's uniqueness.

Angelo

The old UCLA basketball coach John Wooden had many great quotes, among them:
"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

I love this one. I think as we reach middle age, we really begin to live this. When we're young, we're so tuned in to what other people think---and we compromise ourselves, twisting into pretzels to please others. For me at least----as I aged, I began to worry more about what I think of me than what others do. I think the irony is that if you can master this----putting the pieces into place to think well of yourself, have confidenced in yourself----it automatically waives you in for others to think highly of you too. I never got that as a younger man. Too bad I didn't play basketball for John Wooden!

Ed

As we over-60's are wont (yes, that is a word) to say, you 40-year-old whippersnappers don't know anything! And those of you in your 50's are just starting to catch on.

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