This past month I turned 38. Some would say this is not midlife and that 40 is more fitting. I don't care what you have to say. It feels like midlife to me. I have felt older in the last year then I have previously in my life. Maybe it was the fire, or the toddler, or just a midlife crisis.
I think this hits most people and kids make it more real. The teens and twenties are spent figuring things out. School and careers. Meeting potential partners and maybe getting married. Then the thirties come, and you start falling into more of a routine. Perhaps you are married now and have a kid or two. Work is often past the excitement point and now, routine.
Often I think it is kids that do it. Kids make life, well real – and complicated. Plus beautiful. I do believe they are a part of the human experience. Raising a little human is way different than raising a dog (and I have done that). It's also more limiting. While I know some families travel in RVs or even on boats, that is not what we want for our kid (at least not full time). We want him to have a base and friends that he grew up with.
Anyway, life feels real now and not the adventure it was when I was five or even ten years younger. And that is okay. Perhaps it's time to set some new goals. That gets us to the point of this post.
Why Midlife Crisis
Seeing that my life may be halfway over (I mean, hopefully, I will live an independent life until I am 100, but let's be honest with ourselves), I want to rethink where I want life to go. I share these goals with you for two reasons.
First, so that I can be held accountable, in Buddhism, there is a saying that karma is built on different levels. A thought creates some karma, verbalizing it builds more, and doing the action builds the most karma. So today, I will be verbalizing my goals in the hope of creating some karmic energy and move things forward. Additionally, this is why you should say nice things to each other. Not only is it polite and hopefully right, but if karma does exist, then you are banking the good kind.
Second, I want you, the reader, to think about where your life is now and where you want it to go for the next 40 years. That will change and get adapted over time as the Mad Fientist recounts after his second year of retirement, but just think about it.
No matter how you define midlife crisis, it's something many people endure.
My goals during a midlife crisis
So without further ado…my goals
First are the simple ones to state, but not necessarily to do.
Continue building my relationships with loved ones and close friends.
As time has gone by, my need for an extensive social network has diminished. Don't get me wrong, I like meeting new people and getting to know their life stories, but I do this all day at work as a doctor. Thus in my personal life, I like to keep my group of friends to a small but reliable group. Weed out the people who do not improve you and keep the good. Same with family. Continuing to build on those lifelong relationships is vital.
I am trying to be a more patient husband and father.
I think I am getting better at the husband's part since I have had years of practice. The father part is more complicated. As my son has turned three and is more defiant, I find myself needing more patience – much more patience. So now, I am trying to slow my roll and breath before addressing his resistance. Resistance is futile (his or mine, I am not sure, but either way, it is pointless), so I might as well learn a new way to handle it. That is likely also something I need to work on as a son and brother. We tend to take the people closest to us for granted.
I am finding joy in the small things at work.
By this point in life, I have pretty much figured out the doctoring thing except for the occasional crazy diagnosis. There are many things I love about this job, particularly when I have a great talk and connection with a patient. Thus my goal is to focus on making more of these connections and less on the frustrations (medical records systems, administrative mandates, etc.). I can control what I can, and the rest is just noise. Since this is a job I may be doing for 30 more years, I need to continue improving my experience with it.
Continue writing, whether it is for this site or a book, doesn't matter. Just keep writing.
I do enjoy putting my thoughts on paper. I have found some modest success with this site. About 200 people visit it per day and from all over the world. That is a pittance compared to many other blogs out there, but I think of it as if I am giving a college seminar. If I were lecturing in front of 200 people every day, I would feel pretty successful. So I want to keep this up.
The number of posts has decreased from 3 a week to 1 a week since the inception of the site, but that is because I am busy doing other things (like building a home, dealing with insurance, trying to be the best I can at my day job). Still, I will keep writing. I have dabbled in writing a book but am not motivated to get through the outline. But who knows, maybe one day.
Keep pursuing financial independence.
I do think financial independence makes life easier. The fact that I am now debt-free has allowed me to make some life choices I would not have made a year ago. That is compelling stuff. So my goal is to be financially independent by the time I am 50. Whether this will be through saving and investing in index funds (my current plan) or if I start investing in real estate (which I am debating currently) has yet to be seen.
My family spends about $100,000 a year (lots of travel), which means we would need about $120,000 a year to account for taxes. That is $2.8 million to be considered financially independent. I am currently above $1 million, and hope to be at $1.5 million by the end of 2019. So I am getting there. The reality is if we cut spending, we will be there sooner as I will need less money to be considered financially independent and have more to invest each month. Food is our most significant source of spending, and I do think we can cut back on dinners out. Oh, and in this calculation, we will need to own our home outright, which we currently do not.
Kids' college tuition.
That is already taken care of. He is three and has $60k in a 529 plan. I suspect over the next 15 years, it will be closer to $200k. So I can take this off of my list of things to worry about.
Now for the more task-oriented ones.
Lift and get fit.
The best shape I have ever been in was 2004 when I was doing Jiu-Jitsu regularly. I was thin and healthy. Since then, I have continued working out in some capacity over the years. I have run, lifted weights, done kung fu, and, most recently, yoga. I do think flexibility and strength training are vital, so I want to continue yoga, but need to focus on building my muscles too.
Thus I think I am going to invest in some free weights and a bench for my garage. For me to work out, it needs to be comfortable, and nothing is easier than working out at home. I am not sure this will happen, but I want to put it out there. I would also love to get back into martial arts, but the schedule has to be conducive to my work and family life. That is why yoga has worked. I go to class at 6 am and am home by 7 am to shower and see my family before going to work.
Learn a musical instrument.
I have taken trumpet and Arabic drum lessons and can keep a rhythm but do not feel proficient in either. I really would like to learn guitar or piano but never have gotten around to it. That is a goal, though, and one I hope I can do in the next ten years. It would be fun to be able to jam. For now, I am giving my son access to all of these instruments and lessons. If I never learn, hopefully, he will.
So there you have it. Nothing crazy. Just some simple goals for a 30 something-year-old man. I am sure I have lots to learn, and people in their 50s probably scoff at my thoughts, but that is okay. I'm getting the work done, and the karma is rolling. Let's see what the next 38 years bring!