Discovering who you are is not just for teenagers. Midlife men must also rediscover the world around them while struggling with their own impending mortality and legacy, especially those who change careers and lifestyles.
Middle-aged men like me are under siege, beset on all sides by personal ambition, internal expectations, familial pressure, disillusionment, uncertainty, and legacy. It’s a constant battle to balance the needs of the self and the needs of others and a struggle to discover which ones really take priority. Some win this battle and some tragically lose.
Curmudgeonism is a state of mind, unwavering, unapologetic, and uninterested in what people think. We are the proverbial old dog that can’t be taught new tricks because we know the old tricks are tried and true. We have firm beliefs that can’t be shaken. Free trade is good. True leaders are rare. Happiness is a luxury. Golf is a waste of time and we don’t have enough years left to be unproductive. We don’t apologize for our views because we’ve spent half a lifetime developing them. Theory and idealism sounds good in school but only until it becomes cost prohibitive and the real world determines ground truth. Curmudgeons are uncaring about what people think and have low expectations on the world because it’s done little more than disappoint us. We’re middle aged and tired of looking, acting, feeling the way people want us to, so we’re breaking out and being who we were meant to be; irascible curs who make the world a better place through brutal honesty. We see this as our duty and take it seriously.
Buy the ticket. Take the ride.
Think you’re owed happiness? You’re not. Happiness is a luxury, not a necessity. Some say “if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing then don’t do it.” Those people are surprisingly more comfortable with a welfare Christmas and a moped than the average person. It’s idealistic, but many times unrealistic and as we’ve learned already, idealism has a cost.
The definition of happiness is different for everyone but one thing is for sure-it’s fleeting. Just when you think you’re on the verge of a touchdown, the goal line moves. The variables change and suddenly you’re on a quest to make it to the next level of happiness. Even then, you can accomplish your mission in life and buy a nice house, nice cars, and a baby giraffe and feel happy but then you realize you have to protect it. You have everything you wanted and a life that’s enviable. That means you have to maintain it. You have to keep it going. That adds pressure and makes you unhappy again. It’s a vicious cycle.
The universe does not owe anyone a single atom of happiness and there’s no law that says you have to love your chosen profession. As long as a job provides income and necessities for the family then it can suck badger milk because true happiness for a man comes from being a provider. It’s our responsibility to take care of our kin and we want to fulfill that responsibility no matter how happy or unhappy it makes us. Curmudgeons sacrifice the happiness of the self for the needs of the family because we’re not egotistical or narcissistic.
Some Deepak Chopra Zen master schmuck will tell you that you have to be happy in life or that you should continually strive to find greater levels of happiness. That works for some, but if you’re a family man then you have the responsibility to provide for those you love and that's it. If you're not happy but you’re providing a good life then suck it up, cupcake.
My soul dies a little each day at work, but I provide a comfortable living for my family therefore I will be its punching bag and shut up and take it. Some days I hate what I’ve become but then I step through the doors of my house and it’s all washed away. Coming home from a day on the job is like finishing a hard ass gym workout. It sucked, but in the end it’s satisfying to know my sacrifice had a purpose and my good health means I will live to work another day and my family will be good to go a little longer. Men are wired to provide, even if it’s just for ourselves, and when anything threatens our ability to do that we freak out just a little bit.
On the grand scale of things happiness is a want, not a need. We need to provide. We want to be happy but if we're not happy, but we're providing then that's a form of happiness in itself or at the very least a form of satisfaction. I may not fit some liberal’s view of happy but I’m content and that’s good enough for me. Don’t agree? Quit your crappy job just to spite me. It’s not easy is it? Show me a job that pays as much as I'm making now that I can enjoy and then I'll listen to your "don't work in a job you hate" argument. Otherwise leave me alone. I have a family to provide for.
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Kelly Crigger is an angry troll who lives under a bridge, eats goats that wander past, and throws their bones into the canyon of despair.
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