Midlife crisis or in a rut? Make Morbus Melancholy!

I might be having a midlife crisis. But, as in all things, especially regarding a pseudo-science concept such as this, the more you examine it, the more you can convince yourself that all this stuff is True and Happening. It's why fortune-tellers and horoscopes and precognition remain popular - the observer effect is well known (and, unknown to me but submitted by sbp: the Forer effect).

If we take Wikipedia at face-value, I don't feel this has anything to do with "the passing of youth and the imminence of old age". I'm 31, but I feel like a young'un. I have to think about what my age is, and I do so not because it's rote but because I have to calculate it every time from the year I was born. When you grow up without birthdays, you just don't pay much attention to age or years. Nor has anything major happened in my life lately, unless you consider the birth of my first child, three years ago, and my second, one year ago - I certainly consider those major events, but positive ones, not like "death of a spouse" or "career setback".

When I look at all the things I like to do (which is an awful, awful lot - I haven't been bored for decades), I don't find myself getting the same amount of satisfaction I used to. I feel "paralyzed", unable to sit down and "do something", but not from laziness nor lack of impetus. This applies both to existing projects or new attempts of existing interests (writing a new program or book, starting a new game, etc.). I don't have any "new" interests that couldn't fall into a subset of an existing desire, nor would I have the time anyways.

The lack of time is a contributor, I think. In a 24 hour day, I sleep 6, work 7, and "babysit" for another 6.5. Let's fill up another 1.5 with maintenance (eating, showering, responding to e-mail and other computer-y things). That leaves me three hours of the day for myself (I will ignore rebuttals of "OMG, YOU HAVE FREE TIME?!!": I'm not comparing myself to you, asshat). In that remaining time, I'm supposed to "relax", "wind down", and "enjoy myself" (my beliefs). For the past week, and on and off for months, I've merely wandered around the house or sat in a chair staring into space. Sometimes I'll meander idly around the web, wasting bandwidth.

There is plenty to do and plenty that I want to do, but it seems that by the time I start to do it, and really get into doing it, time is up, time for bed. I never reach that point of being "in the zone"; my free time feels like an endless series of false starts that may culminate into something worthwhile, but eventually peters off into trying to figure out what I was thinking 24 hours ago.

Maybe I'm "just in a rut" - I've been in those before, but never this long.

Part of my problem may be because I try to make everything a "project", something that I would be proud of "releasing". That perfectionist mentality got me to where I am today but, back then I had a lot more free time. As an example, one of my latest "longest journey" goals is to read every Star Trek book ever written, something approximating over 1,000 entries. A lofty goal, certainly, but I couldn't leave well enough alone: I've convinced myself that I should do "something worthwhile" and contribute summaries and so forth to Memory Beta. Even though I love reading the books, I almost dread finishing one because it means I "have" to improve the wiki, something that would take me a few three-hour nights per book. It's easy enough to say "well, don't do that", but the researcher in me chastises me for "keeping the data all to myself". I'm fighting myself over being a leech or a contributor.

One of the oldest projects I've kept wanting to come back to, time and time again, has been a browser-based game. I've started coding dozens since I first wrote about them in 2000, but they always reach a point where I lose interest: I know I'm a better coder than most people, and I know success is inevitable. Coding nowadays, for me, is like cutting and prepping ingredients for your favorite meal: it's busy work and my mind wanders. I know I can do it, I take no pleasure in it, and it's rarely a challenge. Given enough time, I'll succeed, and keeping it maintained with the latest framework releases will seem like work and a waste of time. I prefer story over mechanics anyways, but I don't even feel like I have enough time to run a decent play-by-post RPG.

Nearly everything I like doing, and I've examined them all, doesn't seem worth actually doing anymore.

I can't even be arsed to write a decent conclusion to this posting.

Comments

I googled scattergirl tonight for the first time in years and came across:
http://blogspace.com/swhack/chatlogs/2001-11-29.txt

...which, although it only has the smallest reference, made me feel roughly 106 years old. Haha!

So I relate to your post. Wish there was a 'shake-up' button somewhere, something not too painful yet powerful enough to make things look new again.

Take care morb :*

Been there, done that.

People find answers to the 'rut,' and individual responses will vary. For me, it was a combination of time management, building relationships with people who I actually like, and working to inject meaning into the things I do such that I know spending time on something accomplishes something useful. Like, at the end of the day, I know I have made the world slightly better through the work I do, I have done it with people I care about and want to see succeed, and that the work I do contributes making things the I way I would want to see them be.

It's a question of world view as much as anything. Life always seems to get faster with each year that passes by, having a fundamental disposition towards accepting the ambiguity and demands it puts upon you seems to be the key to getting past the post-adolescent apathy that seems to manifest itself in the early 30s. You have more responsibilities, you are going to continue having more responsibilities, and it takes work to make sure your life will not become narrow, shallow and meaningless.

M

Like you (I think), I have a lot of myself invested in making things. I'm trying to de-prioritize that in favor of doing more things. Enlightenment isn't out there at the "goal;" it's right where you are, and the trick is to shape your life so that that's apparent.

And: you might prefer phrasing it as "midlife opportunity."

You really need to make an attempt to defragment your free time into a single large block of free time for yourself. Besides just not doing work, context switching in development is fatal to productivity. tell yourself you will postpone using your 3 hours of free time today for several days and inturn would work on something work or family related. once you accumulated enough free time you can allow yourself to use it in blocks larger than 3 hours, try 6 hours. weekends are perfect for that. Of course my adaptation is very different than from what you may end up with. My only hope here is to shed some light on how you can turn the falling grains of sand through your finters and turn them into mount.

My last episode ended a bit more than month ago and lasted about half a year as well as they have been progressively getting longer with every time. However on an afterthought i really dont think it is possible to avoid the progression. consider this: The wiser you become, the more easy it becomes to solve old problems. However you also begin to notice other worldly issues which are by far harder to solve.

So how do you balance this? how can we continue to handle the pressure that we become more aware of the more our eyes open. I do not know.

We all probably have 2-3 hours of 'me time.' The problem is that they are not all together. That makes for a very scattered time or the feeling that you can't get anything done for you. I tend to make everything a project too, but you can get to the point where you have too many projects. If you are like me, you then shut down because you don't know what to do next. casino en ligne

OK, so you didn't exactly ask for advice, but apparently I'm going to spin some. I think you need to turn it on its head, and commit yourself to not being "productive" in your "me" time. Those projects are sapping your energy—making you commit to things because you believe you have to produce an output, make a contribution, give something back, otherwise it is not legitimate or ok.

You need to spend that time, not invest it. Deliberately look for things that have no output and that leave no mark. Do things well while also deliberately leaving something imperfect—look for the mistakes and deliberately leave them there. Resist perfectionism. (Voltaire: "The perfect is the enemy of the good.") I am a recovering perfectionist myself—it's like being an alcoholic, you just have to take it one day at a time.

Finally, if you just can't bring yourself to spend "non-productive" time on yourself for yourself, remember that looking after yourself is the only way you can make sure in the long run you're able to "be there" (metaphorically and practically) for your children and the people who care about you—so do it for them. :)

Thought of you today, after reading an entry on BoingBoing about a Diplomacy-type play-by-mail game that sounded a lot like Ghyll. Not one to talk... I think we all feel this way from time to time... I never had much trouble writing when I needed to (for work), but always blamed the fact I wrote for work for my lack of progress writing fiction. Having not had that excuse to use for the past three years now, I had to dig a little deeper... I think the problem is, I feel this pressure where, if I am going to invest the time, I feel obligated to have something meaningful to say. And few great things are born of starting with such high expectations. We'd probably be more productive if we remembered how to get our hands dirty and play with the language. And then kept at it, until we stumble into something worth attaching meaning to. In other words, I think that moral obligation is a lousy motivation for creative work. The work has to be it's own reward... and the best way to accomplish that is for it to be... fun? (Sez me, who has never been told she'd be on the back of any book... in fact, god only knows what any of my high school teachers expected would become of me, but I doubt any of it was good! -Cat C.).

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