On August 10th, I will enter a new age group: 45-49. To non-runners, you may be asking, “John, exactly what are you talking about?” It means that when I race, I will no longer find my results in the 40-44 age group; I will now find my results in the 45-49 age group. Does this mean I will suddenly vault to the top of this new age group? Heck no!! It means I will enter into a new age group and will have my results compared and contrasted against a whole slew of men who are older and faster than me.
It also means I am entering a new phase of life: mid-life.
According to WebMD (“How to Get Out of a Midlife Crisis“), many people between the ages of 40 and 50 enter a period where they reflect on their lives and evaluate it. Sometimes this self-reflection can cause one to become depressed, anxious, and panicked, thus resulting in impulsive decisions to try to change the lives they have for what they feel they missed out on (hence, the stereotypical purchase of an expensive red sports car).
By no means do I feel I am on the verge of a mid-life crisis. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t engaged in some self-assessment and wondering “what if” since I hit the “big 4-0” five years ago.
As a child, I was tall, awkward, chubby, and not athletic. I was very aware of this and it made me very shy. I trembled in fear whenever my father would explode, never knowing why this happened until years later when I studied Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Vietnam Veteran in high school. My reaction to his rages fostered senses of inabilities to protect or defend myself, thus making me vulnerable to bullies for years. I worked hard in school, but struggled to get passing grades despite being in remedial classes at times, seeking extra help, and having a tutor. I had a small circle of friends, and saw myself as an introvert. I read, drew, listened to lots of music, and eventually found the guitar. But my lack of confidence deterred me from pushing myself.
College was a different experience. Although I still had issues with self-esteem and confidence, all that hard work and perseverance in school paid off. I made Dean’s List every semester except for my first and last (and my last semester was strictly pass/fail, and I passed). I was accepted into an honor’s society and had some of my work published in the university literary magazines. I interacted with people more easily and easily made friends.
Adulthood has been, as expected, a mix of challenges, opportunities, obstacles, and milestones. I believed very deeply that I could help others learn and inspire them to love learning, so I wanted to be a teacher (whether you’re a teacher or not, look up Sometimes a Shining Moment by Eliot Wiggington – it’s a fantastic and motivating story). Although I gave my best effort possible to land a full-time teaching job, it wasn’t meant to be, and I made a difficult decision to pursue a different career. This decision also cost me my initial attempt at getting my Master’s degree – something that haunted my dreams on and off for years.
While in college, I met someone, fell in love, got married, and started a family – two beautiful daughters. One thing led to another and we endured financial hardships and other things that strained and ultimately broke our marriage. We got divorced five years ago.
Since then, I have changed jobs three times, all by my choice. The first one was, by far, the most difficult. I had been with that company for 13 years. Everything I know about Technical Communication I learned there. I felt I knew the in’s and out’s of that field, and thoroughly enjoyed working with the people there. Post-divorce financial strains forced me to find a better-paying job, which I ultimately found after enduring some emotionally painful turmoil at a job in between. I enjoy where I work now, but I often wonder if where I am professionally is as far as I’ll ever go, leading me to question if I made the right decisions years ago, which sparks new doubts in myself, my abilities, and accomplishments.
Fortunately, with some help, I’ve learned to also look at my accomplishments and how they have defined me, and I am often surprised at what I have accomplished:
- I have two beautiful daughters, both who are incredibly smart, athletic, and artistic. Both also play multiple instruments and perform in their school’s bands. They are kind and polite people. I am so thankful they are in my life and am so proud of who they are.
- A little over four years ago, I met someone who has become my best friend, my closest confidant, and my partner-in-crime. I love her dearly.
- My parents. What more can I say? They have always stood by me to guide me and help me grow.
- Mrs. Austin, my English teacher in my senior year, saw something in me and pushed me hard to get out of my shell. She insisted I audition for one of the open speech slots at graduation. It was hard enough for me to give my speech in front of my English class, the idea of giving it in front of a gym full of peers and teachers, and possibly in front of the entire graduating class of 1989 absolutely terrified me. But I did it. I didn’t earn a spot, but doing so helped me conquer a fear of something that I now enjoy doing. Over the years, I have given presentations at two conferences, one local university, and numerous times at work and for my town’s youth soccer league.
- I already mentioned the academic success I experienced in college, but it’s worth mentioning again. It was so hard for me to get C’s in school despite the extra help, so to have things finally “click” with grades really boosted my confidence.
- I’m still not very athletic, but am proud to hold a First Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, a martial art that features lots of spinning, jumping, and twisting kicks. I’ve also completed 14 half marathons, one ultra marathon relay, two marathon relays, and scores of other races. I’ve only placed twice in my soon-to-be former age group, but for someone who usually was picked last for gym class games, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve accomplished!
- Running really has been my mantra. I’ve been running for 12 years. It’s never easy, but it’s always there for me. It’s cathartic. It’s beauty. It’s art.
- I also had the pleasure of coaching youth soccer (yeah, me, someone who never played soccer at any level!!) and serving on the league board for all eight years while my youngest played. I “retired” last year after serving as the president and vice president, which were honors, but my fondest memories are of the years I coached. It felt good to work with kids again, apply what I learned about teaching to something I knew nothing about but was willing to learn.
- If I’m not running, I’m playing the guitar. I’ve played since I was in high school. For a number of years, that guitar sat dormant in the attic. If I wasn’t having bad dreams about giving up grad school, I had bad dreams about giving up the guitar. I picked it back up in 2007 and have never stopped playing. Guitar, too, is cathartic, beauty, and art.
- Speaking of grad school, I resumed my studies (different program and university) back in 2014. I am enjoying it so much, that it will be a bit sad when it is over in Spring 2018. I look forward to the opportunities my degree program my present.
This topic is not one I particularly cared to write about or share. It is merely an honest and necessary self-evaluation: the good and the bad; the past, present and future. However, it may come across as a mix of “dwelling on the past” and tooting my own horn. That is not its intent.
Most likely, by the time you read this, I will have turned 45 years old and I will have entered that new age group. It’s a little scary, but it’s also exciting. I’m looking forward to new challenges and opportunities that await me in the next 45+ years.