A ‘meh’ life crisis

As Adrian Mole might have said I am 41 and a half. This is, according to authoritative sources (well Wikipedia), about the time when a ‘mid life crisis’ might occur.

I’m not sure if that is what I experiencing but I am certainly going through an introspective phase that had previously been pretty absent from my life.

Unlike some of my peers I am not becoming a vegan ultra-runner, and the world is not ready for the sight that would be me in lycra riding a bicycle that costs the same as a small car.

Given I cannot drive an inappropriate sports car has no place in my future and I am not even chasing inappropriately young women. In fact I am not doing much of anything at the moment. Well apart from the aforementioned introspection (and working, always working.)

I feel more and more defined as a person by what I do for a living — especially since it has long since leaked in to most aspects of my life. There are fewer and fewer green field sites in my world where I can escape my work/online persona.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I love the work and I think it is a privilege to be a part of these online communities with so many funny, intelligent, passionate people. I can’t imagine my life without the internet and without the (social) web I think I would have become a very different person.

I look around and see people everywhere trying to change the world in their own little ways every day. I see people taking risks and following their dreams.

The problem is this passion I see in these other people? I no longer feel it myself.

The work I am doing at the moment is important I think in its own small way. It isn’t going to change the world but it will help people in some important ways I truly believe. It is hard work and I am enjoying the challenge. The people I work with are great and I am learning a lot.

So this vague feeling of unease. Of being unfulfilled and unsatisfied is not really about this current job. Anyone who knows me will know I have had trouble settling places over the years.

There is a quote often (mis)attributed to Albert Einstein that I often come back to these days related to this;

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I have spent the vast majority of my career working in the public sector in pretty risk averse organisations that are coming to terms with a ‘digital’ (whatever that means) world rather than embracing it. Each time I find myself chafing against the (often entirely reasonable) constraints and my frustration builds as I fail to change the culture in any meaningful way. I then move on. To somewhere essentially the same. And the cycle begins again.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I know I am lucky. The web came along and gave me a career which is probably all that stopped me from a lifetime working for Tesco.

I get paid a good salary to do work that is interesting. I get to attend inspiring conferences and travel. Hell I even get flexitime and a pension!

So what is the problem? What am I whinging about?

I guess I just have an underlying feeling of disappointment in myself for my lack of ambition. A lot of nagging questions;

  • Why did I never follow through with my desire to work in the US?
  • Why did I give up so quickly when I tried freelancing?
  • Why have I never tried to write something more substantial than a blogpost?
  • Should I have tried working for an agency when I had the opportunity?
  • What would have happened if I had accepted one of those (many) job offers in London?

What was it Frank said?

“Regrets, I’ve had a few.”

So many of these regrets are to do with fear. A lack of confidence when I am in danger of leaving my comfort zone. I look back at these opportunities when time and time again I chose the ‘path most traveled’ and I am disappointed in myself.

Perhaps the reality is though that the fact I am single and child-less means I simply have too much time to dwell on these things? Probably. Doesn’t change anything though.

I need to find a way to find that passion I used to have. I need to stop comparing myself to other people as well — something I suffer horribly from.

This isn’t about changing jobs. I am determined to see this project through and for it to be something I can really be proud of. More widely though I need something new — something where I can feel I am making a difference, where I am having some kind of impact. Doesn’t need to be changing the world but it needs to be something that I can believe in.

Like they say in those 12-step programmes;

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.


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