~ And Now What? ~
It was sometime around my 31st birthday when my youth came to a natural conclusion just as I knew it always would. Suddenly the idea of jumping on a plane halfway around the world to go backpacking seemed beyond me. I couldn’t imagine having the same needs and desires as I had just a few years previously. That life now seemed like a foreign thing to me. The disappearance of enthusiasm had left me like a walking shrug of the shoulders. And standing on those nightclub dancefloors was now a sobering affair; I listened to the music and looked at the bright young faces with an ache in my heart. They were people that I now didn’t belong to. Their eyes were full of wonder and they were walking a path I had already walked; living a life I had already lived; feeling things I had already felt. But now in my 30s what was I supposed to be doing? These were the years when you settled down and established some sort of base and routine. Mortgages and marriages; contracts and careers; security and stability. All of that was just as foreign as those young people now seemed to me. I was a man caught in nowhere and I knew the next stage of my life would be a bewildering one. All stages of my life had been bewildering to some degree – and I guess I was used to sailing through some sort of foggy sea – but at least my ship was powered by some sort of existential fuel. That inner fire was now almost completely out and I had nothing to throw on it to make it burn again. My vigour was gone and I was now at the mercy of the indifferent current of life’s great ocean – a waiting shipwreck drifting towards the jagged rocks of inevitability.
Such thoughts can almost be too much to bear, so naturally I tried to console myself by considering that things in my life weren’t so bad. I told myself that I had now reached some sort of important intersection where I simply needed to reset and recalibrate. I considered that for once having someone else to share my journey with could be the way forward. Twelve years into adulthood, I had still never really shared my life path with anyone else for more than a few months. Maybe sharing this human experience was what I finally needed to find some meaning in my life again? Perhaps even dedicating myself to a singular task in one place would get my inner fire burning again? The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t shake the thought that this was just the tiredness talking. Such weariness was what I figured got many people sinking into the grooves of middle-aged mediocrity. Pretty soon you’d be sucked into all the usual traps: putting on weight, loss of creativity, consumerism, bad cholesterol, aches, pains, stress, road rage, credit cards, and close-minded thinking. I imagined sitting on a sofa and staring blankly at a television screen, my belly protruding out ever further year by year as my mind became stale. It seemed to me that so many people seeped out in this middle stage of life; wounded or exhausted by the first part of their lives, they settled down into a space where their spirit slowly seeped out of them until all that was left was a hollow shell. I didn’t determine myself to be melodramatic when I thought of the same thing happening to me. In fact, at that moment in time, it seemed the most likely outcome.
No, if these things weren’t the way either, then what was? Buddhism? Stoicism? Adventure sports? I wanted to keep my soul full of fire, but I just wasn’t sure of the ‘how’ now that my interests were waning. In a time of perpetual confusion, I returned to the keyboard to strike out a few sentences. Something about it was pleasurable – like spitting in the face of someone trying to kill you. Although my connection to other things in my life was fading, writing was still always there like a constant companion in a world of transients. I guess every man had his one medicine that he could always turn to. But when I thought about it, it was even true that the amount I wrote now had dropped drastically in the last couple of years. I recalled the moment after publishing my first book at twenty-six – me telling myself that I was going to publish book after book, at least once a year for the rest of my life. I’d travel and write and chase my desires until the setting of my sun. Now such a feeling seemed like blind optimism. Worst of all, it just seemed like plain hard work. Things I once did for fun, or because I simply couldn’t stop myself, now seemed like work. It was that very feeling which spelt out the enormity of the spiritual crisis I was facing.
Indeed, it’s a constant spiritual battle. Living a life worth living and staying true to yourself in this world, in this society, is something that does not come easily. I knew from what I had observed that living without will or conviction will very quickly result in you being lured into places where you will be lessened down. The temptations, escapisms and addictions find you quickly. Such things lure the passive man into a trap from which he may never escape throughout his whole journey upon this earth. In some way, I knew who I was and what I stood for. But maintaining that self always and existing in society was a perpetual battle – especially when my mind was in this foggy and confusing state. I knew solitude served me well from experience; in that sanctuary of isolation, one could not be corrupted by the voices of others and gradually tune into the inner voice. But as always, the human desire for interaction would force me back out onto the streets, into the bars, into the beds of women who would twist my mind up. They would make me lose whatever self-assurance I had and leave me once again a confused dumb kid with pain in his heart, looking for something to alleviate the eternal sadness.
On top of this, I knew at the age of thirty I was not even halfway through this struggle of living a life worth living. But I found some solace in the memories of the past; the fact that I had walked my own path after university, that I travelled to the places I wanted to travel, wrote in a way I wanted to write, that I had experienced blissful states of consciousness and found some deep inner truths. But yes, finally the wave had crashed and I lay dazed in the sand wondering ‘and now what?’ Oh god, I didn’t want to end up this way. I always thought I was strong enough not to be slain by the pitfalls of older age. I always thought the fire would flicker forever in my heart, laughing its flames outward in defiance of ever being snuffed out. But it appears to be dwindling. The only thing for me to do right now is to face the issue and recognise that something has to change.
Has to change.