Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Mid-Life Crisis

My high school theatre teacher taught us that a mid-life crisis usually happens when a person realizes he has lived more of his life than he has left to live.  That description struck me as rather profound when I was a teenager.  I loved my high school theatre teacher.  He looked and acted exactly like Higgins from Magnum P.I., minus the snooty British accent.  He got his start working in a funeral home, where he learned how to apply makeup.  Unfortunately, I missed his 80th birthday party a few years ago.  He and I went to the same barber back before I left Phoenix in 2000.  That's where I would keep tabs on him.  He attended the first show I ever directed, and I couldn't have been more proud.  He was one of a handful of teachers who had a huge influence on me and who I ape now to some degree even after 23 years in the classroom.  The others were my 8th grade math teacher, my high school Calculus teacher (his answering machine always played "I Just Called To Say I Love You" - gotta love the 80's), a few college professors, and my two cooperating teachers when I student taught English and theatre.

Most people don't know when their lives will end, but my mid-life crisis happened the spring before I turned 37 and lasted roughly two years.  (My goal is to live until 90, so my theatre teacher's math better be a little off.)  You get this unsettling thought that where you are and what you're doing is where you're gonna be and what you'll be doing for the rest of your life.  That kind of compounds the "Oh, no! I'm halfway to the fucking grave" panic.  Then you start to think, I just turned 21 like two seconds a go, didn't I?  Remember when Dad took you out for your first real drink at Bobby McGee's?  Then your best friend left his date (affectionately nicknamed The Sarge) hanging in a dumpy motel so he could meet you at the bar and keep partying afterwards?  This wasn't supposed to happen to me.  I'm supposed to be invulnerable and stay young forever.  Bullshit.

Some guys do crazy things when they hit the crisis.  I did something sensible.  I bought a guitar and taught myself how to play like Elvis.  Sure, I can play some Sabbath riffs as well.  But, there's something about pounding those strings and wailing those rockabilly tunes that sets me free.  I read somewhere recently that even to this day Bruce Springsteen will pick up his guitar, look in the mirror, and pretend he's Elvis.  Once I finally made my pilgrimage to Memphis when I turned 40, I knew I could get through this.  Getting old's not so bad.  It's just different.  Sure, you look more at the past than you do the future, but that's all right.  You gotta take it day by day no matter how fucking old you are.  I guess there is a reason to believe we all will be received in Graceland (thanks, Paul Simon).

I wrote a novel in the summer of 2012 called Memoirs of a Mid-Life Crisis.  There's some of me in that story, which is why it probably didn't get published.  (Write for an audience, you asshole!)  The protagonist faces a major crossroads as he contemplates whether or not to cheat on his wife.  I was proud that I completed a book that wasn't a horror but missed my roots.  Crow Creek was just beyond the horizon.

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