"Plan 9 From Outer Space"
Yesterday was a very interesting day (not talking about it because I don't think anyone would believe me. Yes, even you, mornblade ). Spent a lot of time in meditation and a lot of time talking with my teacher on the phone. Lots of pieces to sort through.
One of the things that came out of the sorting was a reflection on my life and current efforts. I haven't mentioned my age here, but I think people reading my posts and the things I talk about from my childhood and the memories I have and influences I've felt enable everyone to come up with a really good guess. Technically, I'm middle age, on the low end of the halfway range for human life expectancy. (My perception is colored by Alan King. During a show, King mentioned that he was 59 and 59 is old. Someone in the audience screamed, "You're middle age!" He retorted, "Don't give me middle age, lady. How many people you know live to be 118?") I am acutely aware that I am probably (not definitely, but probably) closer to the end of my life than the beginning of it.
People don't know much about middle age. There's a reason for that --- middle age, as we know it and understand it now, is a recent development in human life. Human life expectancy was relatively low, given how mankind needed to survive and the lack of understanding left us vulnerable to diseases and such. But as man has progressed in just the last few decades, adding years onto the average lifespan has happened. It has expanded our lives. But it's only one part that got expanded --- the middle. Our childhoods haven't gotten longer, adolecense hasn't gotten longer, old age hasn't gotten longer. It's this section that used to be over in the blink of an eye that has now become a major section in our lives.
Psychologists are now writing volumes about middle age. They are establishing psychological patterns that generally happen when this point is reached. It seems that, just as there is a psychological transition between the child and the adolescent (adolescents don't do things the same way they did as children) and another between the adolescent and the adult (ditto), there's one between the adult and the middle age. It is the refusal to acknowledge this that can trigger the (it turns out, not so) mythical midlife crisis.
I was never happy as a kid. I had so much potential, but was continually dismissed as just being a kid or a teen, I had no idea what I was really talking about. No consideration of my points or logic and what might be wrong with them, just that I couldn't possibly be right because of my age. The lack of liberty and understanding burned me up. Becoming an adult gave some cache to my ideas. In retrospect, the reactions of other people to my thoughts and opinions and beliefs didn't change at all. They still did not regard my logic or reasoning or feelings, they only considered how they related to the ideas I advanced. The only difference was they didn't dismiss them as childish ramblings. I had more right to think what I wanted, but still no right to not be dismissed out of hand.
I often think that I'm damn lucky I didn't start making headway in the comic book industry when I was younger. I've seen a lot of bad blood between former friends who created something wonderful that got lucky and hit the big time or all the people who thought they had climbed out of the trenches, only to be shoved back down there by the publisher looking to exploit them. I've avoided making things that, as I got older, I lost interest in and would have been terminally embarassed to have out there nowadays. Hey, our values change throughout our lives. Even if you respect my current opinions and think I have it together and am smart now, I wasn't always like this. I didn't pop out of the womb quoting Shakespeare and yelling, "Down with the establishment!" I had to overcome my ingrained stupidity and the things associated with it (sexism -- "Girls are yucky", religious intolerance -- "You're not Catholic, you're going to burn in Hell", and all that other bullshit). Lots of women like Mimi Rogers like to pretend those Playboy spreads didn't happen. We do change as we get older. Nothing can stop it.
Same thing with people in my life. I'll be honest with you, I believed for a long time that I would never get married, that I had blown my one chance at true love (note to Mornblade: no, it's not that one woman I told you about, it's someone else). Now, I'm not so convinced. There are a lot of women that, at the time we broke up, I thought the world was ending or I felt like a heel for dumping them. Now, I look back and go, "Whoa! Did I dodge a bullet!" Not that their lives (what I know of them) are bad or anything. Just the realization that marriage wouldn't have made us stronger, it just would have made us more resentful and going our separate ways was the absolute right thing. I'm actually pretty lucky that I don't have as much baggage as other guys my age (note: some women actually consider this a negative. One woman refused to date me because I didn't have at least one failed marriage by this point in my life. She saw that as a sign that there was something wrong with me. Jeeeeeeezus....)
What's interesting is that, while I'm not satisfied with the things I've done so far, it only serves to motivate me further. I want more than what I have. I want to get back in comic shops. I want to eventually write for a living instead of just working and doing this when I can. No different than my adolesence and adulthood. But here's the key difference --- it's not just the experiences I've had, it's the perspective itself. I literally have a different mindset now, one that enables me to not be so blinded by my passions and creates a desire to make smarter decisions, ones I can truly live with and be proud of. I don't think I would have been happy with Sound Waves ten years ago. My output at the time was big series and stories to go after editors and convince them to give me a gig. Rhapsody and Melody never would have been created back then. I came up with them during a quiet moment a few years ago. A moment that I never would have had or appreciated back then. And frankly, the things I come up with for them are a lot more satisfying than, say, the Batman pitch I spent months working on that was a waste of time because, "We don't let someone without credits work on a flagship character!"
It's like middle age still gives me a reasonable amount of energy and drive. Not as much as when I was younger, and that will never be reclaimed anyway. But still enough to do things. To experience things. To learn things. But there's an additional layer, a filter, if you will, that makes the opportunities stand in a new light and gives a clearer idea of the direction I'm going in. Traps still exist, but falling into them out of desperation is far less likely. It's odd. I never really regarded middle age as a life stage unto itself (unlike the general divisions of teenager and such), but it does seem to be. Looking back at my memories and actions, there is a distinct difference. It's like a switch got flipped, and suddenly how I related to the world changed. Modern life has added years to my life, but added them to a portion when I'm less likely to do stupid stuff and do things I can genuinely enjoy and take pride in.
One of the things I got reading Honey And Clover was the cell phone thing. One of the characters gets a new cell phone and checks the calendar function. It went up to the year 2099. He put in a reminder for his birthday in 2099. He reflected that he KNEW he would never see it, and that was why he did it. It was a reminder he wouldn't live forever, so he needed to do things now. I do that with my cell phone and the calendar on my computer. And anytime I think, "I'll do this later," I remember that later might not happen. The only time I have is now, and each day that slips away is another day lost, and the likelihood of getting it done later becomes less and less. So do it now. Get it done. Find out while you can if it can happen.
Because...take it from me and the day I had yesterday...you'll be surprised the directions you'll go in, the people you'll help, and the friends you'll meet. There is ALWAYS a future, one where you are needed instead of just being a participant in. And that's the key thing --- without you, that future can't happen.
So get out there and make it happen. I hope I'll see you there.