This kind of analysis is usually little more than bunk, but a few years back I stumbled across the writings of Daniel Levinson who, specifically, wrote The Seasons of A Man’s Life in the 1960s, fifty flippin years ago, and I couldn’t help but spend some time pondering the overlap with my own wending-winding-wandering existence towards and through middle age.
Levinson’s “seasons” are marked by typical stages (and probably highly culturally biased towards a particular demographic, as with most anything that emerged in the 60s), an age range, and a kind of “end goal” for that stage … and I thought it might be interesting in my mid-life transition to have a look at how those seasons aligned with how I see my own bumbling angst-fueled progress so far.
Newly adult (approximately aged 17-22) and establishing independence.
This I might easily call the angry young pisser stage, perhaps. This is that era where a guy like me would have officially been known as an entitled little shit. I spent the duration of this era in school, university and college, wandering through Europe for a month, and mixing and matching friends across a variety of interests. Summer jobs. No money. No stability. Bumming rides and borrowing favours. I can’t say that I still know (or frequently hang out with) many people from this season of my particular life, and a few of those people may not be interested in hearing from me if I actually did contact them.
I definitely ain’t that guy anymore.
Young adult (approximately aged 22-28) and marking priorities.
I moved away from the broader-concept-of-home in the middle of this stage, got out of Dodge, fled the province for the coast and the big city and my first real job. I still had no car and no money and I fumbled around through my days trying to formulate something of a life plan that fit with what I knew about the first twenty-some years of my time on Earth. By the time I exited this particular stage I was married and sorting out a house and such. I was optimistic about the future and wanted to build this awe-inspiring life to impress the hell out of everyone… not that anyone really cared.
We’d go for coffee if I met this guy again, but I’m not him anymore.
First transitional season (Approximately aged 28-33) and framing social impact.
Which marks what I would honestly call the other angry pisser stage. It worries me a little that I’ve had two angry pisser stages, and consequently alienated a lot of friends. I wanted to make the world a better place at this point in time, and I saw the best way to do that as to have a strong opinion about things. I was a new dad and tried to take a deliberate, rational approach to that effort. Did I mention that I was a bit of an angry pisser? I started exercising with a purpose here. I learned to compartmentalize my time and my mental capital, sometimes at the expense of others but to the benefit of my own sanity. Not that I always or even usually got it right. I spent a shitload of time stressed about things I couldn’t possibly control and as a result flailed around trying to make sense of relationships and loneliness and political machinations both big and small.
I might not even say hi if I passed this guy on the street.
Settling in (Approximately aged 33-40) and realizing successes.
Then I really started to plan and set goals much better. Of course I went through a quasi-layoff during this time. Nothing makes you feel like a worthless piece of shit than going to work one day and watching a room full of people with slightly more power than you casually vote your livelihood out of existence. I spent a lot of time honing my marketable skills here. I narrow-focused on building a career over jumping around through a few unteathered jobs. I ran three marathons. I talked about things like strategy and leadership with a straight face. I found friends whose interests (rather than thickly overlapping) merely intersected my own at a few vague points and realized that this is an amazing thing. And despite a crazy world swirling in chaos around me I found a seed of optimism and positivity that comes from elevating others around me rather than climbing atop the goodwill of others.
He is me, and I am he, but at the same time it’s like looking in a funhouse mirror at a different version of myself.
Mid-life transitional season (approximately aged 40-45) and evaluating progress.
Which is where I seem to find myself now. Which is also where I’ve been struggling to continue nurturing that seedling of positivity through an irrational need to rationalize my existence. I won’t try to put any kind of perspective on a season that I’m just warming up to, but I will write that the very reason I’m writing here now is for the very fact that I can feel the change, I can feel the shift from my late thirties into my early forties as a kind of urgency to ensure that I’ve not made some monumental mistake in getting here. I don’t think so, but it’s that same feeling you get ten minutes into your vacation flight as you sit in a jet plane wondering if you remembered to lock the front door of your house. Oh shit. Oh well. I either did or I didn’t. The apparent reality, of course, is that no one else seems to know either.
We’ve all arrived here at roughly the same time and pace and state of absolute bewilderment that a bunch of rules exist to help plot our path through, but no one seems to have clarified why they exist.
Aren’t we supposed to… y’know… No. I have no idea either.
Another legit angry pisser stage is definitely possible here, but that middle-aged shit might just spend a few years angry at himself. That’s who I guess I am now.
Middle life adult (Approximately aged 45-55) and accepting decisions.
…obviously I’m not quite there yet.
As I wrote above, this kind of theory is likely little more than 1960s pop-science bunk, but wrapped inside it’s goofy grain of structure it threatens to offer a framework for rationalizing the irrational state of getting older. I like that. Whatever it’s not worth.