Dreaming Backwards

or the gift of the mid-life crisis

Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash

“We will never be here again.”

Homer, The Iliad

When driving through a dense fog, only the next few feet are visible before you. Everything beyond your sight is unknown.

When we were young adults, the foggy vision of our future loomed before us, vast and limitless, making us feel excited and alive. Our life ahead was mysterious because it was undefined and undetermined, making it full of possibilities.

Eager, we paced restlessly at the gates, listening for the gun to sound so we could race out into the fog ahead, each of us our own spinning galaxy, full of Potential.

We believed. We just knew we would find the magic of beginnings and the joy of surprises and the wonder of adventure. We were going to make our mark, find love, clink glasses with friends in revelry, and live breezy, sunset-filled lives.

The uncertainty of it all; the life yet to be lived… made us feel ALIVE.

Everything ahead of us was a choice yet to be made, our paths yet to be determined. Here, the idea of Endless Possibility reflects itself onto Time, making it also appear endless. Can Time be timeless?

It is sometime in our forties or fifties that we realize our paths are set. The foggy air becomes clear, and the question of “what is to be” is answered. Where we used to revel in the mystery of what is to come, we can now see. Our trajectory is set.

With minimal imagination and minimal maintenance, we can live out our days. And then one day becomes the next, becomes the next, becomes the next. And we become comfortable.

Until we’re not.

Suddenly, Time no longer seems timeless or limitless. And with the “end of the story” seemingly so clear in front of us, how can we not experience the infamous ‘mid-life crisis’?

The world looks so different when the fog clears. Without the excitement of the unknown, monotony begins. We may begin to look back more than ahead.

“I miss dreaming forwards,” Anna said.
“I dream backwards now. You won’t believe how backwards you’ll dream someday.”

Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

We think about the legacy we will leave behind. We think about the way we spent our time, the choices we made, and all the times we settled, became complacent.

Many will remain complacent and spend the rest of their lives looking back, living in the memory of years past, the best of their time behind them. Too afraid to make a move.

Some will yearn for more, but stay the path, afraid to make changes because of what others think, a sense of obligation, money, status, and familiarity. All the while, wondering “what if”.

We will all crave some form of intimacy and desire connections that offer depth. A few of us will seek out experience, adventure, knowledge, and a greater understanding. Philosophy and self-development move to areas of high interest.

We want to maximize the life we get out of our time, and maximize the value of the time we have left in our lives.

But how?

We have to fill our lives with things that inspire excitement and make us connect to the world around us. Without focusing on our careers or materialistic things, here are a few ways to improve the best half of your life and feel alive again.

Fill your life with Potential.

  • Never stop learning. Learn something new every day. There is no room for boredom in this world. We live in an informational age, everything at our fingertips.
  • Find your tribe. Find people that inspire you to be a better you. People that challenge you to think deeper than ever before. Surround yourself with the ones who want to hear what you are thinking. The ones that smile the moment you enter the room.
  • Stop escaping. Stop distracting yourself with the monotony of pointless and mind-numbing TV and superficial interests. If it doesn’t move you to the core, you are wasting your time.
  • Stop settling in your relationships. Don’t stay for comfort or out of obligation as that isn’t fair to them either. If current circumstances are not ideal, don’t be afraid to blow up your life. Regret from inaction is heavy. We change. We aren’t the same person that we were 20 or 30 years ago — actually — we better not be.
  • Have downtime. Breathe deep and enjoy the moment. Stare out at the horizon and listen to the birds during a sunset. Relax on your front porch and wonder at how the cloud formations create shapes. Watch the leaves blow through the treetops and notice how the sunlight reflects off a blade of grass.
  • Take an interest and passion of yours and make it grow. Make it a gift for the world around you. Be creative and express yourself — just write it, sing it, draw it… CREATE IT. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks…. just put it out there.
  • Pick up an old hobby. What did you once love but have forgotten? What passion did you give up in the name of a 9–5? Think back and reignite that energy.
  • Take care of your self. Go to the dentist, the doctor. Invest in preventative care. Lose weight. Learn to love healthy foods and see just how satiated they can make you feel.
  • Skydive, swim with sharks, learn to ride a motorcycle, climb a mountain. Do something that scares, excites, and intrigues you.
  • Exercise until your heart is beating out of your chest and your muscles are screaming. And then do it again the next day, and the day after that. Learn to love the physical discomfort of pushing your own boundaries.
  • Get lost in the woods. Or better yet — get to know those woods like the back of your hand. Learn about the land, wildflowers, rivers, ecosystems, wetlands, deserts… whatever corner you live in — study it and fully experience your spot on this beautiful blue planet.

The fact is that cultural and societal expectations pave much of our way. Take what you can control into your hands and begin living life the way you want to live. Be courageous.

Your mid-life crisis is a gift, an awakening. The universe is grabbing you by the shoulders and trying to shake sense into you before it is too late. Will you heed its warning? Are you paying attention?

“Let us not remain anchored in the quicksand of a waning past, and lose the war on obliviousness, but let us listen to the bracing sounds of new horizons, grasp the enchantment of the fleeting instants and seize the cleverness of the moment. (Could time be patient?)”

Erik Pevernagie

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