Facing the phase three
When I was a teen in the 1970s, I experienced a classic existential crisis. Though I’d never heard the term, or of Kierkegaard for that matter, I managed to bore my friends with angst-ridden monologues questioning the meaning of life. Why were we here? What was the point of it all? No one really knew. More importantly, the people I was hanging with at the time weren’t particularly curious to know.
But I was restless as a ghost in a graveyard.
Life confused me.
Taught for eight years by nuns, I thought of life as the warm-up act to the main attraction of, well, death. Or more precisely, whatever came afterward. Much of my religious education focused on behaving properly on earth so that we could enjoy eternal life later in heaven.
It was like the ultimate marshmallow test.
Suffice to say, I failed. The moment their backs were turned I stuffed all of life’s sweet goodness into my gob.
I was selfish and ignorant and took ridiculously dangerous risks with this corporeal shell. My rebellious life caused others distress and for that I am truly sorry. But I don’t regret what I did.
A few people I knew became extremely religious. Some had born-again experiences. Others found gurus. One joined a cult. I don’t doubt that they all had profound personal experience that changed them. But their beliefs required that they dismiss the beliefs of others. I preferred to think there existed as many paths as people.
And, of course, mine was the best. For me.
The only way I physically survived my existential crisis was by living hard and holding onto the idea that it would pass.
I hoped I would age-out and outlive it.
For the most part, I did.
But it kept coming back.
This time around is different. No longer able to hold onto the label of middle age I am sliding into that final stage of life.
I am old.
So far, old age strikes me as a second adolescence.
Am I handling the seasons of my life? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t think any of life’s big questions can be definitively answered.
But they must be asked over and over again.