The gestation of a mid-life crisis

Call it a crisis. Call it indecision. Call it what you want. This pandemic certainly reinforced and inflamed the career holding pattern I was in during 2020. The depression I was feeling from it all came from an old childhood place, a place where all the demons hang out and cavort with each other until your adult self pulls one of their numbers out of a hat, ready to do battle with them and shut them down for good.

My childhood did not really provide the structure and TLC it needed to keep me focused on doing the right thing for my education and inherently any type of career. Going back and forth between my parents’ houses, riddled with low-esteem, insecurity and some pretty extreme ADHD behavioral patterns, I honestly didn’t have much of a shot at being able to focus on anything except masking my unhappiness with an over-the-top “happy fun outgoing guy” facade. I wore that face everywhere I went.

Being the new kid at every school I went to, being the poor kid in the rich neighborhood, I lied constantly. I lied about who I was. I lied about what I had. I lied about what my hobbies were. I even went through a total kleptomaniac phase of stealing clothes from department stores I knew I’d never be able to afford. I even stole clothing from my own friends! What the hell was wrong with me?

All of this was the result of that perfect storm of emotional insecurity, my distorted view of material possession and it’s influence on my own self-worth. I was full of jealousy, sadness, and a burning envy of all my friends on an almost hourly basis. This all lead back to the stress and tension at home attached to finances, living paycheck to paycheck, and our family dynamic constantly being tormented by the looming dark cloud of possibly having to move yet again because my dad ran out of work and we were now broke for the 20th time on any given year.

Setting the stage for a life of codependence

I met my first wife at 15 years old in high school. We got together for all the silly reasons kids do. However, she and her home life, while not rich in money, was more wealthy in a light, easy and fun environment. There was a levity I felt with her and her mom that I honestly became addicted to, one that I’d never had in my own family life. My emotional codependence and drive propelled me to figure out how I could get away from my own home and family as much and as quickly as possible. This was my opportunity to feel some relief from the daily tension at home while also filling a deep painful nurture void I’d had since as long as I could remember.

The year my wife (yep, married at 18 years old) was supposed to start college, the birds and the bees gave us a pregnancy with our first child. She had to drop out of a state college she had worked so hard to get into. I dropped out of junior college where I was sort of aimless and bored and not taking it seriously, and went right to work full time at a warehouse job.

This was a major turning point in our lives, not just because we were pregnant but because we were pregnant at 20 years old and didn’t take any time to be adults, get a higher education, start working on a career path, do fun young adult stuff that you are supposed to do long before you have kids. We just cut out completely that part of our life timeline that you are supposed to spend growing the fuck up a bit first!

Trying to course correct for the kids

By 1997 we had a newborn and a toddler and I was working the warehouse job circuit living the blue collar life with my stay-at-home wife who was tending to the kids. We were both highly intelligent and good people but we stunted our potential by doing all this crap so so young.

I was working in warehouses, driving forklifts, putting up with asshole bosses and miserable coworkers until one day in 1994 I heard a radio ad for a computer/tech school in San Jose, CA. Silicon Valley was on the rise. I remember thinking, “Man, I REALLY do NOT want to be as poor as I was growing up. I want my kids to be able to have things I didn’t if they want them. I really want stability in our house without all the financially driven tension. I want us all to have medical and dental insurance and to be able to eat more than just top ramen and peanut butter and bread.”

Of all the things my dad did not do very well as a father, one thing he did do right by us was instill in us a relentless work ethic. So I applied to the tech school, we went neck deep in almost criminal-level financial aid debt. I remember the night we signed the financial aid paperwork at the school was the night I turned 21 years old so I made sure we stopped by a liquor store, ANY liquor store, so I could exercise my new right to purchase alcohol. I remember getting a tall Samuel Adams and being so tired from work and our baby at home that I finished half of it and fell asleep. This was quite a different 21st birthday than most of our peers from high school got to take part in.

So now I was working from 8 to 5 every day and driving 40mins every night after work to go to tech school until 11PM M-Thu. I did this from ’95 to ’97. That SUCKED…but it opened some doors and I got my first tech support job in 1995 while still in school. This was my first sign of freedom from the mindless jobs I loathed so much (warehouse work, shitty retail jobs and fast food). I was also now a commuter for the first time but I had my first “office job” so I was just grateful for that.

Moving forward, even though I knew deep down I was an artist/musician type, I had to figure out how to find my happy work home in the cubicle of a young tech industry that elevated IQ over EQ, logic over abstract thought and money over happiness and inner peace…..basically everything I wasn’t.

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