Last night Mrs. Lisakbooks threw me a Fortieth birthday party. This was an 80′s themed party. Somehow she found Brett Michaels and he agreed to attend as a very special guest:
The whole week was really good. On my birthday she and the kids took me to dinner and gave me their gifts. Mrs. Lisakbooks got me an album with a “Year Worth of Dates.” She literally made all of the arrangements for us to go on a date once a month…which is a rare commodity. We’re typically lucky if we go on a date once a year.
This was great…except that the Gremlin was highly pissed when she realized that it would be just me and Mrs. Lisakbooks…and she would not be included.
Can’t please everyone…and typically can’t please that kid.
I plan to take up fishing with my Dad again this year, and so the kids got me a tackle box and some bait.
At the end of this past week, we had a party. Mrs. Lisakbooks went to great pains to set up something with an amusing 80′s theme that gave me the chance to spend a few hours surrounded by the people who are most important in my life while I dressed like an idiot.
All in all a great week.
Toward the end of the evening last night I was talking with my brother-in-law, who is quite possibly the most relaxed person I’ve ever met.
This never ceases to amaze me, because he’s a person who lost his Dad at a very young age, and became the man of the house in a house with a mother and three sisters. To this day he lends them (and pretty much everyone else in the family) a helping hand any time they need it…all with a smile on his face.
Then we have me, who has faced little to no hardships in his life, but is probably one of the top ten most stressed people on earth.
My brother-in-law jokingly said to me, “Well…this is forty…so now you can have a mid-life crisis if you want, right?”
I replied, “I think I’ve already had a few.”
He seemed to be shocked by this, and so I went on to explain, “I can’t say for sure…but I think I might be a little more tightly wound than you are.”
The fact for many people of the universe, is that when you approach forty you tend to pause and reflect on how things have gone thus far…and where they are headed. And typically it doesn’t make you very happy.
Last night, my father asked me if I did that when I hit thirty. I explained that because your twenties don’t come with things like Bursitis in your shoulder or the development of a pear shaped body, it doesn’t occur to you that you are aging.
So in short: No, this does not happen at 30.
This is precisely why the movie This is Forty was so good. If you are at or around that landmark age, I would highly recommend it. It is a riot. If you are someone who has just turned thirty, then I would suggest waiting ten years…at which point I would highly recommend it. Unless, of course, you are thirty and feel bad about your age…in which case, I am forty, and shut the hell up.
Mid-life crises come up for most, myself included. Allow me to share a story with you…which I believe is a conglomeration of several of the stories I’ve told you before…
About two years ago, I dropped my first book. Many of you may have read it, and thanks again to you for giving my story a shot. I will tell you that it was one of the more interesting endeavors in my life from an ‘emotional roller coaster’ standpoint…whether it should have been or not.
Many of you have heard this story. I’ve dreamed of being a writer all my life, and one day I reached a point where I decided that I needed to take the story of the Bryant File which was developing in my head and make it a reality.
I pushed hard to do it – making it a goal to write 5 pages per week. During the course of all of that I basically burnt myself out, but I pushed to do it anyway. I wanted to put this out there so that someday I would not say, “I wonder what would have happened if I had done that.”
This was a point of view I’d used at one time in my decision to join the military. When people ask me what brought me to that decision, I tell them that it was something I thought I might like to do…and I never wanted to look back some day and wonder what would have happened if I’d done it.
So to avoid this…I just did it.
That particular endeavor was a success. It was one of the more difficult things I will ever do – but in doing it I traveled to places across the globe, I saw things I may never see again, and I got to drive an aircraft carrier. It was hard, but I will never regret it. Pursuing it taught me something: you should never allow yourself to be in a position where you look back and wonder ‘what if?’
The Bryant File was like that for me…but with a very different outcome. As a result, I learned something different…but something that was every bit as important…and I’ll take it with me through life.
By the time I was done with the book I was completely spent, but one-hundred percent convinced I had written the best story I was capable of. I shopped it around to over 100 agents…and every last one of them told me they weren’t interested.
Not ready to give up, and convinced I’d written a great story, I researched to try to determine where I’d gone wrong. I learned that no one will take on a manuscript from a first time author that exceeds 400-pages. It costs too much to print, and you’re too big a risk. The Bryant File, at that time, was over 600-pages.
I went through re-write after re-write until I managed to get the story down to under 400-pages. Now I felt as though I was ready to try again…and I felt as though it was condensed and therefore more action packed than the first manuscript. I was excited.
I tried again…and the second time around I had one agent who asked to see more of the manuscript. In my research I’d learned that it was tough to get through this particular hurdle…because agents receive hundreds of queries every week and getting one to notice you is damned near to impossible.
I was convinced I’d succeeded.
Then months went by with no further interaction. I proceeded to circulate queries to other agents. For a second time, I petitioned over 100 agents, and for a second time the balance of them had told me they weren’t interested.
Finally, roughly six months later, the agent who had expressed interest contacted me to tell me that the book wasn’t quite what she was looking for.
Inasmuch as I promised myself I would not get caught up in the rejection, because I had so much else to be excited about in my life, the disappointment was overwhelming.
Eventually I decided to self-publish the book. At the beginning of the book, I made the dedication to my kids, with the message: Never allow yourself to wonder ‘what if…’
I believed at this point I’d found closure. Other people would have the chance to read the story, and perhaps my children could see the message that I’d placed in the front, and realize that they should always be willing to take a chance on themselves regardless of the outcome.
Shortly thereafter, I read a book by John Locke, who to date is one of the most successful self-published authors in the business. The book described ways in which self-published authors could promote their writing. After seeing what he’d achieved I once again began to believe I could make this writing endeavor into something big. That’s when this blog was born.
Over the past two years and some change I’ve gotten to write a lot of stories about my life and my family, and they’ve been read by a lot of people. As best I can gather, they’ve been really well received…and again, I want to thank you for giving my story a shot!
Admittedly, my message to my kids at the front of the book wasn’t quite as easy to ‘live out’ as it was to write down.
I spent much of the last two years wondering how to take the blog and The Bryant File further…and wondering why I wasn’t getting as many readers as I’d hoped when I first decided it was time to take the Bryant File from being a story in my head to an actual book.
I’d often think I needed to work harder to publicize all of this, and then I’d start to feel depressed about that…because in some ways I’d rather be spending time with Post Tween or the Gremlin…or even poor Mrs. Lisakbooks who has the thankless job of dealing with all my crap but typically plays second fiddle to the kids in terms of my attention.
Sometimes I’d look at the job I had as my daily grind and feel a sense of disappointment that there might never come a time where I’d get the chance to do ‘that thing’ I really wanted to do.
This, my friends, would be a fine example of a mid-life crisis. And I wasn’t even forty yet when it happened.
Then there’s the ‘need’ to ‘fix’ the pear shape that my body had taken on. Because after all, I ‘looked like’ Arnold Schwartzeneger in college, so surely with some work I could regain that physique.
I filled my evenings trying to fit in time to blog, promote the book, work out, etc.
And I became more unhappy.
Interestingly enough, what would snap me out of it was often the realization that what I really wanted first was that time with my family. I’d ‘let myself go.’ The result was that I wouldn’t make a lot of progress on those ‘extra things’ I wanted, but I would be happy.
At some point, and I couldn’t tell you when exactly it was…I came to terms with all of…well, this.
I started just enjoying spending time with my wife and kids and stopped trying to fit in all of these other ‘requirements.’
I stopped trying to push myself to crank out two blogs a week and just wrote when the spirit moved me. I stopped beating myself up to try to promote The Bryant File…and write sequels…and worry about what agents might care about…and I just started writing another story.
I’m proud to say that I’ve just crossed the 100-page mark in this new novel…but I’m actually prouder to say that I have not placed a five-page per week requirement on myself…and while I may try to circulate it to literary agencies if I finish it, I am just enjoying writing it.
I am good with whatever the outcome.
I am now just doing the things I want to do. I am focusing on the things that really matter to me…much of what you’ve read about over the past two years and some change.
One of the things I learned recently is that this is the best cure for a mid-life crisis, or any form of depression or anxiety.
My wife once told me that she enjoys the blog much more than she did the book, because when she reads it she can tell that I’m writing about things I care about…and I think she’s right.
That said, I still embrace my mantra that you should pursue the things in life that you feel mean something to you…even if it takes some time and some work and sacrifice. You only get to be here once, and you should make the most of it.
Sometimes the things you want to pursue will scare you a bit, and they will be tough on you, maybe harder than you imagined. Yet you’ll be certain you are doing the right thing…because it’s something you knew you always wanted…and in going through it you’ll find courage and satisfaction.
Sometimes the biggest and greatest things you go through won’t be the things you’d always dreamed of as a child. Instead, they will come as a surprise…but you should embrace them nonetheless and put everything you have into them, and know that sometimes God understands what you need in your life better than you do.
Sometimes things will not work out as you’ve hoped they would. If that happens, I hope you can eventually come to the realization that I have: that those things were still worth pursuing, and that you should always be willing to take a chance on yourself…but also be willing to accept wherever life takes you and see it as a blessing.
Never look back and wonder ‘what if.’
This past Monday I turned 40. It was a great week.