The Premature Midlife Crisis

I turned 29 this November, am reasonably successful, intelligent (allegedly), have good credit, have a comfortable apartment with all my basic needs met, slightly OCD about neatness and cleanliness (which, according to Steve, may have resulted in “girly hands“) and yet I’m profoundly unhappy.

I really shouldn’t be because, ostensibly, I have nothing to complain about aside from a few gray hairs and a few lines on my forehead. I can blame genetics for the gray hairs since my dad had the same problem early on and the lines are definitely from stress… from what, I’m not exactly sure since none of it seems to matter anymore.

What am I doing?

I’ve been looking at my past decisions and goals and I honestly don’t ever recall a moment where terms like Contract Codemonkey and Patch-up Web Designer ever entered into the picture. And yet, here I am being exactly that. But in this economy, I suppose I should be glad I get some work these days even as an outside contractor.

I think the appropriate term is “Underwhelmed“. Not much of work is challenging to me or particularly interesting, office politics bores me and my bosses, with the exception of one from my past job, are all pretty much the same, stubborn, clueless idiot in different bodies.

Despite the amount of whining and complaining I do about work, bosses and co-workers, I don’t really have anything to be stressed out about as I’m not really mad at them and not really frustrated at work. I’ve grown to accept the general incompetence of tenured morons as the price of doing business.

But it seems that’s all I’m doing… I’m doing business. Not much living, not much fun, just doing business.  Although I wrote my first program when I was 14 and I’m good at what I do, entering this field is starting to feel like a huge mistake for me. And the feeling is more than a little unsettling.

Do I need a new girlfriend?

Some of the people I’ve told how I feel seem to think so and I’m not sure I agree. Granted, I’m now single, I don’t think anyone who knew the ins and outs of the relationship would even call it a “relationship” at the stage it was at. This was more a formal breakup of an already broken union.

After my trip to Sri Lanka and after I met all my relatives, I was quite surprised to see many of them, my age or younger, have already married and have children. Almost all the “older folks” there were keen to convey their concern that I don’t have a family yet and that I shouldn’t wait until I’m over 30 to get married.

I’m not sure if family life is really what I’m missing here or looking for, although I’m not against it, and after the breakup I was actually somewhat relieved.

Do I need a new hobby?

I thought I’d be making soap as a hobby, but that’s gonna turn into a side business now. I also started learning the guitar, but even that isn’t holding my interest like it used to. I still barely know a few chords.

...Or just not in the mood.

Do I need to go back to school?

I’ve been struggling with this question since I stopped going for my bachelor’s  in college years ago and started focusing on working full-time. Work has given me the ability to achieve a lot (far more than I could have with just family support alone) all the while being separated from most of my relatives for 16 years so all this time I still thought it was a good idea.

Aside from being able to focus on things that are completely unrelated work, I may have the opportunity to try something else. I even considered leaving Engineering and going for something like Art. I chose Engineering because I was strongly encouraged to pursue it by my family and Sri Lankans in general have a thing for it. It’s like what the Medical field is for Indians.

Besides, I’ve been told repeatedly to get into a field that “will actually pay the bills later”.

I do remember that I used to have a lot of fun going to school even after I switched to night classes, but since then my classmates have been people much older than me or even twice my age. I didn’t really mind at first because I’ve enjoyed the company of older people than my own age group, but maybe losing touch with people my age made the decision to quit easier.

Do I need to adjust my diet?

Admittedly, I may still have an incomplete diet even after learning a few lessons during my visit to Sri Lanka and that may be affecting my personality somewhat.

As an example, my “breakfast/morning coffee” consists of slightly more than a pint of milk with three teaspoons of sugar and one teaspoon of instant Maxwell House. Nope. That’s not an exaggeration :


My dinners are usually more substantial, but then again, my current work schedule demands I go to bed in the early mornings around 4:00AM. So technically, I’m still getting a substantial breakfast with my breakfast now being my dinner.

But I can’t imagine this is a significant reason.

Do I need to “unlearn” (whatever that means)?

Seems to be the hottest trend these days after protesting the 1%, but I’m not sure what exactly it is. Different sources on the net say different things and it all ranges from drowning out the inner noise to weed.  And it seems an awful lot like just plain slacking off or as they would have called it in the ’60s, Dropping Out, but maybe I’m not just getting the big picture here.

And I don’t know how one proceeds to survive with unlearning, especially since my living conditions don’t seem to fit the excesses of Keeping up with the Joneses. My mortgage and maintenance fee combined is actually much cheaper than what most people pay for rent in my area. At least financially, I’m still well within my means and I can save enough for the future.

So here I am…

Perhaps 15-20 years or so too early for it, but I’m feeling a bit lost and things I thought used to matter, don’t anymore.


13 thoughts on “The Premature Midlife Crisis

  1. It all comes of being 29. Pivotal point, lots of variably inchoate and acute pressure/options, requires leaps of faith ultimately. I remember it well. And with a certain tooth gritting quality to it. Also, yr hands are NOT girly. They’re philosophical, yes. Girly, no. WE have girly hands- er, paws.
    Family, school, all those things are potentials for action but really, one must just wade through the static and inner swamps and whatnot to get to the real message, not just what people tell you to do or think or whatnot. Takes time and cannot be rushed. Things are changing now, even faster than usual, nothing is set or static, it’s an adventure that each of us has to persist through in calmness to learn What Comes Next. This society’s mode of external validation, consumption, getting things from Outside doesn’t quite cut it in the long run. The important thing is to stay conscious and open (challenging) so that when the Real Thing comes along, you recognize it. And for most of us it isn’t going to be that pie in the sky, somnambulist American Dream of Being RICH- but it DOES come. Creative ferment, what do you really and truly need, and all that. Ouch, but worthwhile.
    Now, we’re off to chop wood and carry water, yee haw, woo hoo, tally ho, etc. We have the utmost confidence in you, anyway.

  2. It comes at about 29 and it stays till 33 (at least). American beauty.
    Can’t do much about it really but rock n’ roll man.

    And that’s about the best advice I can give you right now.

  3. At times I feel like I’m in the same boat, just at the other end of it: my life is so crazy and stress-ridden that I wonder if I’m truly enjoying the path my life is taking, or if I’m just along for the ride, doing the whole “if I can just get through [x] then it’ll get better…” ad nauseum.

    What maintains me is mostly a combination of 1) new things constantly coming up, 2) an advisor who is ridiculously enthusiastic about everything, 3) a core group of classmates to suffer with, 4) regular (weekly/biweekly/monthly) contact with my family, 5) occasionally shirking responsibilities to have a relaxing night out with friends. A wonderful girlfriend who plays a role in all those points is certainly a whole ‘nother cake, but not a requirement.

    Since I am a professional student, I’ll be among the first to suggest that it’s never too late to go back to school for whatever reason. It’s expensive, but particularly since you already have a great deal of experience, it will only swell your CV.

    My personal suggestion would be to start small: fix your diet, get a regular exercise regimen going, and establish a regular sleep pattern. These don’t have to be huge things. I’ve heard wonderful feedback from friends about the C25K program, and exercise + healthier diets tend to create a positive feedback loop that encourage more of each other. Plus these two things also drive better circadian rhythms. But the key is to stick to these items, probably for a month or two.

    Once you have these things fixed, you’ll be amazed how much clearer your head becomes. Spend that time letting potential ideas roll around, but don’t act on them until you’ve got sleep/exercise/food under control. That way, you’re forcing yourself not to make paradigm-shifting decisions on a dime (as we are all wont to do in moments of weakness).

    Based on your entry, it seems as though you’re not all that far off from being really satisfied with things. Obviously I can’t know this for sure, but you may still find that only some minor wiggling will open up new opportunities that really make things better :) As opposed to making huge changes.

    tl;dr Change is a great thing, just make sure it’s what you want. Try some of the smaller / more obvious things first.

    *steps off soapbox* I truly hope this is helpful; I don’t mean any of it to be soapbox-y or preachy.

    • Thanks, Shannon. It means a lot to get that advice.

      I can certainly work on my diet and exercise isn’t a problem since I try to stay active, but sleep patterns are definitely an issue at the moment. The down side to working for yourself is that you do really work a lot harder and end up at odd hours. E.G. This past month, it’s been almost impossible to sleep before at least 2:00am. And I always end up waking up in the morning anyway so I end up sleeping probably around 4-5 hours. Gotta change that somehow.

      I think what I miss the most though is #4, Regular contact with my family. I’m feeling it strongly, especially after my trip. Aside from occasional contact by phone and Skype, I don’t get much time to catch up.

      But, one thing at a time, eh?

      • Yeah, setting a regular sleeping regimen while in graduate school is almost an occupational joke. It really does help a ton, though; if there’s any possible way you can make it work, you’ll notice a big difference. I certainly have to make exceptions for exams / research deadlines / general hectic-ness of graduate school, but the benefits are more than worthwhile.

        One thing at a time is the key. Like I said, changes are great, but there’s no need to rush anything: you’re still young! Take your time, implement these changes piece by piece, and see what you find along the way.

        Do these things the Agile way, rather than by Waterfall :P

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