eerie moment of clarity

A couple of years ago, 30 came and went. It didn’t feel like some people say, like a milestone or anything like that. Yeah, I was getting into motorcycling at the time but that didn’t feel like an escape, just like a hobby. But something changed then and I didn’t notice until last night. Well, I’ve been noticing for a while, but it didn’t click until last night.

In that post I linked, I wrote

I thought that turning 30 would feel weird, like a loss of freedom or the extra weight of adult responsibility, but while I do sort of feel that I’ve lost an excuse, things feel alright.

And it’s completely obvious in retrospect, but when that happens, it doesn’t happen instantly, and I’m realizing that I’ve been a bit of a boiling frog for some time now, and that it’s no coincidence that things got difficult in the last couple of years.

I was a happy-go-lucky indiepop-loving playstation-playing geeky hipster that got paid for playing with computers in my late 20s, and now I’m preparing to maximize shareholder value and I haven’t been excited about an album release in a year (I’m not even running my bittorrent client these days!) and spending — or I would be spending were I not where I am — an entire year’s time and lost salary on business school. And while I acknowledge that there probably are people out there for whom that’s a perfectly natural progression it doesn’t seem like one for me.


When I was doing the NEO-IP personality test the other day two questions caught my eye. In case you haven’t done the test, it’s phrased as statements which you then choose a level of accuracy from “Very inaccurate” through “Neither accurate nor inaccurate” to “Very accurate”. Anyhow, the first one said “I fear that my life lacks direction.” And well, that’s certainly accurate. But if I were to rephrase it a bit to “I believe my life needs direction”… well, that’s a lot harder to answer. It’s only when I assume that direction is a given that I find myself worrying about my lack thereof.

The other one asked “I like a leisurely lifestyle.” And I do! I think of it as a Montreal pace. And there isn’t exactly much overlap between “leisurely lifestyle” and “MBA”, you know? I need to find that happy medium, where I have a job that challenges me but doesn’t occupy my existence, where I can control the pace of things and stop to do things I enjoy, and so on. I don’t have to be an outstanding success, I have to be happy. And Candice certainly saw this already: one thing about massage therapy is that it does let you live a leisurely lifestyle. There’s no promotions, no 60-hour weeks. And that’s been right in front of me this whole time.

You know, the timing of (and only the timing of!) our wedding might have been involved too; if 30 doesn’t turn you respectable, then 30-and-married sure does! And yes, a lot of people do sort of “leave their youth behind” after that, but there’s no reason that I (or we!) have to, especially without kids. But more than ever I realize that we’re not going to be your typical suburban nuclear family, and that I don’t need to put on a suit and show up at my downtown office everyday to feel like I’ve made it.

I need to just be geeky old me again.

Because we’re grownups now, and it’s our turn to decide what that means.

5 responses to “eerie moment of clarity”

  1. I’m surprised this didn’t occur to you earlier, largely because you spent seven years getting your baccaleureate as I recall.

    It’s a common crisis for people who spent the key years between 16 and 24 “going for the gold”, but as you’d already lived outside of the normal schedule, I’d think that you’d already given a pass on traditional notions of “success”.

    Lynne Baer’s partner Hyoun Park is currently in an MBA program and he refers to it jokingly as “becoming a corporate tool” but he also has definite goals to do with it — he wants to become the business end of a startup — and he also wants a high-powered career as he and Lynne intend to have kids.

    But you and Candice have chosen to be childfree and therefore theoretically have complete flexibility with what you do and how you do it, and obviously do not need your income to support two kids with school fees, French horn lessons and soccer camps and ballet tutors. You need your income for your and Candice’s needs — shelter, food, clothing — and for your wants. So you really have to define what your wants are on both a career and a personal basis, and figure out the balance.

  2. I did spend seven years in my undergrad, but three? four? of those were part-time, while working full-time as a sysadmin. So I wasn’t as far outside the normal schedule as you’d think — the hard part was scheduling work around (daytime) classes.

    But yeah, I’m surprised too. And I think I basically hit 30, married, and a “I’m not getting anywhere” here moment at work all at once and managed to miss it for all the accompanying noise.

    (I’d enjoy the business end of a startup too — I just think that I can learn what I’d need on the fly, or through self-study (and I plan on using this a lot). And I’m sure it depends on the nature of the MBA program one’s in, too. This one: Not so hot. Not learning much and not excited about the outcome? Uh oh!)

  3. I don’t mean this literally, of course, but you probably do need to find your own Pacific island. A place where you can immerse yourself in the things you like, where everything conspires to fulfill you in some way. Obvious, but:

    There’s really no such thing as Happiness as a state of being. But it is possible to choose one’s tribulations in such a way that even the worst of it is at least worth it, if not desirable. I don’t like dealing with the injustices and inequities I see here all the time, but I’m glad of the chance to actually be in a position to do something about some of them, most of the time.

    I’m not going to trot out any truisms like ‘The more you practice, the luckier you get,’ but I will say that making your life comfortable to wear can be a funny process: Half waiting, half rock-hopping, half hair-pulling. If that makes any sense.

    I guess it comes down to managing the risks, and figuring out how not to regret mistakes. (That’s not a zen thing – it means don’t let anything cost too much.) As a friend of mine recently said: even a blind alley has an exit.

  4. On reflection, I realise that I went the wrong way with the ‘your own Pacific island’ metaphor. I still don’t mean it literally. But I do very much mean that the environment is much more important than the work itself. You can – with time – mold the work to suit you, but you can only choose your environment.

  5. […] Rich wrote a fantastic post today on “eerie moment of clarity”Here’s ONLY a quick extractAnd Candice certainly saw this already: one thing about massage therapy is that it does let you live a leisurely lifestyle. There’s no promotions, no 60-hour weeks. And that’s been right in front of me this whole time. … […]