I was doing some deep thinking this week, stepping off the hamster wheel for a rare few moments. And I arrived at a conclusion. Not that this actually comes as a surprise to me, but this stage of mid-life? It ain’t easy.
Within the last several years, I’ve felt a dramatic downward shift inside, probably for reasons that I’ve written about in nearly every post on this site during this time. But it wasn’t until this past summer that I really realized I wasn’t just passing through some typical stage of life, but that I have probably been at least a bit depressed. And I realized this because summer came along and instead of invigorating me as it usually does, I still often felt as if I was trudging through the winter doldrums.
My job, after some honest conversations with my boss, has improved somewhat. But it is still a huge source of stress and something for which I am always fighting to get in control. Outside of work, my days are filled not only with actual to-do lists composed of various chores and unfinished projects, but also with mental lists of areas where I’m lacking, like connecting with extended family or friends that I haven’t seen in too long. Typical of what others tend to feel as the years march on, time seems to pass more quickly with each passing day. And I seem to have developed a habit of always telling myself that whatever I’ve accomplished, whatever I’ve experienced, it’s not enough.
I was wondering why I’ve continued to feel a mild sense of depression for such a long time. This summer, we finally had time to make a few weekend trips to the family cabin. I love it there, surrounded by nature and simplicity, but always felt like I had to catch up in some way upon our return home. Why this constant sense of never being on top of anything and never just being content? Have I allowed myself to get stuck in some stage of grief? Do I just miss my life with young kids when the future seemed to stretch on endlessly? Am I now so focused on the idea that everything in this world is on a timeline to the degree that I can’t just enjoy any particular moment? Or is it just that I’m getting older and realizing that we don’t have infinite opportunities? That particular idea really hit home when my boss encouraged me to go back to school because the company would subsidize my tuition. I though about it for a split second before I wondered how I would fit this in when I already feel I never accomplish enough in a day and almost always feel mentally exhausted by the end of the workday. How would I even manage homework? Ultimately, I decided that I’m closer to retirement than I am to an entirely new career path. I want to have a life that I can live separately from my job. Besides, I’m satisfied enough doing what I’m doing, and don’t feel a strong desire to climb the ladder any higher than where I am now. But if I were a bit younger, maybe I’d feel differently.
All of these kinds of thoughts have been swirling around in my head for some time to varying degrees of consciousness, and without leading to anything definitive. I’ve just been making my way through each day as best as I can. But in the past few weeks, there have come a few specific ideas about what needs to change. I don’t want to keep riding along in this same rut. Maybe there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel.