“Aw, come on Dave. I tell you, it’s a total myth. It’s just an outdated idea that somewhere around forty life becomes a heap of crap. It’s for losers. Just look at you! You are in a rut; a wife who, let’s be honest, has lost interest in …well, you know what I mean; two kids who are more interested in their iphones and computer games than anything else; your job is going nowhere; it just pays the mortgage and an occasional beer. What I am trying to say Dave, is that you only feel like this because you are not really satisfied with life at the moment and can’t see such a bright future. You need to go out and shake the tree a bit, change jobs, take up squash, maybe even get a mistress, well ok I know Jane is really a wonderful girl, forget the last bit. Sorry mate.”
I knew deep down that he was right. Maybe I was just looking for an excuse to blame it on something else. It’s just that I have been feeling so down lately. Twenty years ago I was a happy-go-lucky guy, a different girl each week, enjoyed my job and thought that I could change the world. Now I seem to be just full of doubts. My back aches most of the time; I get angry at the news, up twice a night for a pee and even when Jane is in the mood it takes me all my effort to manage it. Bobs right about one thing, I need to do something about this or I am a dead man.
“It might seem like a myth to you Bob, but for me it’s real and I can’t seem to get up the energy to fight it. The mid-life crisis is as real at this beer!”
It was easy for Bob to talk like that. He has just had a promotion and is looking to become CIO within a couple of years; a six figure salary, no family, golfing wizard. He seemed to have it all, but even so, somehow nagging deep in the back of my head was the feeling that I still wouldn’t want to swap with him. I love Jane and the kids. They are what keep me going.
“Look at it this way Dave. Would you be feeling like this if you were me? No, of course not! You only feel like you do because you are not happy. You need to get up, be confident, and enjoy life a bit more. The mid-life crisis doesn’t exist, only your misery. Come on what do you say? If it is as real as that beer, then let’s drink it down so that it disappears and at the same time swallow the blues with it.”
Bob perked me up. I knew that he was right and made a momentary promise to myself to do something about it.
“Cheers Bob, and thanks. Next year, same time, same place? You will see that I am a different bloke.”
“Cheers. I really hope so Dave because you are not the same guy as last year when we met. How many years is it now? It must be more than fifteen years that we have met here on the same day each year.”
“This is the seventeenth year. We’ve met every year since uni, except for the year of my bike accident.”
We drank the rest of our beer and left, promising to meet again next year. I told myself that the next time, Bob would meet a different mate; One with optimism. I had had enough of this stupid myth talk.
The following morning at breakfast I looked across the table at Jane. I stared at the small wrinkles forming at the corner of her eyes, her lips were tighter than I had realised. But the thing that struck me most was her eyes. Whereas before they had sparkled and beamed a feeling of thorough happiness throughout the house, they were now blank, dulled by the effort of bringing up a family on a shoestring, tired through lack of relaxation and sleep. “My God,” I thought. “Here I have been so bottled up with my own situation; I had forgotten to see what is happening to the rest of my family. I have been as blind as if I had no eyes.”
On a sudden rush of compassion and impulse I said, “Jane, you know, I have been thinking. The kids are old enough to look after themselves for a week. How about you and I take off to the beach on our own? We need a break.”
Jane looked so surprised. The instant look of excitement was enough to convince me that I had said the right thing. I would find the money from somewhere. “Can we really afford to do that? I thought you were worried about our credit cards already becoming to high.”
“Don’t worry,” I casually responded, trying to give a confident smirk. “I have been saving a few pound each month for exactly this occasion,” I lied.
“Oh Dave. How lovely. I can’t wait.”
And so it was that the year started to improve. We had a great holiday. Jane got a bit of her sparkle back. We made love on the beach at night and swam under the stars. I was faced with a mixture of pride and jealousy as I saw her being eyed by some young guys as she lay by the pool in her bikini. She really was such a beautiful wife and I slowly was nudged back into the reality that I was a lucky guy.
During the holiday I had lost two pounds, which continued after we got back. We also made the effort to go out more and met some like-minded couples. Gradually our social life improved and we managed to find the extra money for some enjoyable social evenings with our friends. We were moving out of the rut that we had somehow, unknowingly, slipped into.
A few months later my boss called me into the office. I knew that there were redundancies on the horizon and feared the worst. “Shit, I thought. Just as life was beginning to pick up, here comes the next major blow.”
I walked into the bosses’ office; stoop shouldered looking at the floor. “Hey, Dave. Come on in. Sit down. Christ Dave, you look awful. What’s the problem?”
“Come on Richard. Spit it out and get it over with. I know there are redundancies on for this month.”
Richard initially laughed out loud but quickly he frowned and became quite serious again. “You’re right Dave. We have to let eighty-six go by the end of the year. That’s nearly a third of the workforce. My problem is that I need to downsize and amalgamate some departments. I have decided to bring all IT departments together under one CIO. The three departments are operations, development and your small group in new projects. Dave, I want you to lead up the whole team and be our new CIO. We need to discuss the details but you are looking at around a fifty per cent increase in salary if you want to take the job. What do you say?”
That evening as Jane and I sat at our celebration dinner, I relayed to her the whole story about my discussion with Bob six months earlier. I told her that I was now ashamed of feeling the way I did, but at the time everything was just getting on top of me. Here I am now, ten pounds lighter, much healthier and fitter, enjoying life as it should be. When I told her the tale of my stupid mid-life crisis and how Bob had suggested I take a mistress and change job, we both laughed. I told Jane that in a strange way I do have a new mistress. Her! She was the only one I ever wanted and now that she seems much happier again she really is like a new woman. She blushed at my comment.
“So, it really is just some stupid myth Jane. Life is what you make it, whether it is during mid-life or not. I can’t wait to see Bob in six months’ time to tell him that he was right all along.”
I sat with such anticipation. Bob had always been my hero; I looked up to him probably too much, but he was the successful one. He was well off, good looking and carried an air of confidence that I could only dream about. I sat in our usual corner thinking how pleased and impressed he will be to see me smiling and confident. I even bought some fashionable new clothes to complete the picture.
It didn’t’ surprise me when, after half an hour, he was not there. He was never one for good timekeeping. I had just ordered my second pint when the pub door slowly opened and an old guy stepped in dripping from the rain. I took little notice and continued with the sms that I was writing to my son. He was stuck on his German homework and wanted to know what a battle-axe was in German. I was just in the middle of writing ‘Schreckschraube’ which is a combination of the words ‘fright’ and ‘screw’ in German, which made me smile, as many translations do, when I suddenly had a genuine fright. When the old guy across the room removed his wet coat and glanced around the pub I saw that it was Bob.
I waved to him and he caught my eye. “Can anyone age so much in a year?” I asked myself.
“Bob, Hi! Sorry old mate, but you look awful. Whatever happened?”
Bob then began to relay the events of the past year. His company began to lose money rapidly after the banks started to slide. They were a major financial consulting company in London and along with the cutbacks was the total outsourcing of their IT. Bob was made redundant six months ago, which had not worried him initially at the time, as he was confident to find another good position. Because of this he waited until the end of his notice period before he earnestly applied for a new position, only to find that it was much more difficult that he had expected. He had been out of work since then, often being told by his interviewees that they were looking for a younger man.
Probably due to his financial situation his latest girlfriend has moved out to be with a younger guy, citing in the harsh words of their split up, that she had never planned to spend her life with a loser.
Bob began to drink heavily and in those short six months has become unkempt, dissillusioned and ten years older.
“You remember last year Dave, when you told me about the mid-life crisis?” he nervously stammered after a few minutes.
“Yes, of course I do. I left here thinking long and hard on what you told me Bob. And you know what it was good what you said to me, you were absolutely ri…”
He cut me off, and put his hand on my shoulder. “I felt bad about what I said ever since. I was too stroppy and should have taken you far more seriously. I have now learned that you were totally right all the time. Of course the mid-life crisis is as real as a common cold. It cuts you down and you don’t know how to get going again.”
I looked at him with sincere and sorrowful eyes. I didn’t have the heart or the will to tell him of my good fortune over the last year. Having waited half a year to spread my luck and good news to Bob, all I could reply was, “Thanks Bob, the mid-life crisis is no myth. Let’s drink to our future.”