Mid-30s Slump

This article may be a bit boring. Life in your thirties is boring. Sobriety is boring. The article is really meant to be a warning sign to the twenty-somethings that are hard-charging and lighting the world aflame. Losing high-functioning performance may not happen to all, but it happened to me. According to my therapist, she hears it all the time from people past thirty. So, maybe I can help soften the blow for others and try to dole out what I learned way too late in life; self-compassion.

Like I mentioned before, something happened to me career-wise when I was at 31 that really derailed me. I got fired from a finance job for a financial infraction; a cold bureaucratic banks accusation of breaking protocol and artificially padding stats. What was tough for me is that as my body was aging and I required more sleep, I didn’t know if it was some self-inflicted depression from this incident or the natural course of things. I always feared the worst and immediately blamed my own demons — never mother nature (and/or your higher power!). That is what is so tough about mental health, unlike physical ailments, you can never acutely diagnose it. You can’t take a test and get your exact chemical deficiency the way you would blood count or an x-ray. This bothers me and I think will likely change as technology develops. Maybe society is over-medicated because its an umbrella approach — throw prescriptions at the wall until something sticks. This medication adds to the fatigue and lack of sex drive. It’s just one more thing to throw into the hodge-podge of getting older.

When I was in my early-twenties I truly thought I was an over-performing alpha-male. Well, maybe one without the truckloads of tail (fuck off Dan Bilzarian) that comes with having a long-term girlfriend now/wife. (Well that and/or my game was weak!). I worked a long-hour finance job. I ran marathons. I studied for certifications outside of business hours and even, literally in utter disbelief to me, used to go to the gym at 9pm on weekdays. My depression brain wants to go to bed at 8:30 now! I truly don’t know how I did this, nor what propelled me to do it. I think it was some adrenaline rush of pride for “beating the system” or maybe I truly thought it’s what everyone did. Trading floors tend to be a big testosterone-off with people working out at all hours or doing some sort of new stupid adventure sport or the latest cleanse fad. It’s not a good sample panel for any walk of life. At least tech bros dress comfortably. Its no wonder this culture spurs burnout and/or stress meltdowns. Or propels people to do things outside of their core values in desperation — what happened to me — and also any Netflix financial documentary or “American Greed” episode you may see previewed.

Thirties bring fatigue, injuries, inflating bodies, house responsibilities, KIDS, and yes, addiction. You simply can not do all that you used to because you likely don’t have that impossibly small city apartment and do the taxing soul-sucking public-transport commute to work. They call suburbs sleepy for a reason. Stress fractures (both physical and mental!) and knee injuries manifest. A friend of mine that worked in the emergency room at MGH recalled an unbelievable amount of Crossfit participants that would be ushered in. You require more sleep to replenish. You don’t bounce back from hangovers and worse it induces an anxiety-driven spiral that you didn’t used to experience in your city days of the classic brunch roll-over. Then, everyone was drinking, so how could you have a problem?

Last, having babies with a partner produces the most core-earthquaking phenomenon ever known to mankind. The lack of sleep promotes poor moods. Worse than that though, is the ungodly amount of downtime, but downtime that is occupied. Watching monitors or not being able to move from a couch because a sleeping baby is in your arms. You get used to TV. Netflix becomes your best friend. Without knowing it, you finished all Sopranos and Breaking Bad series, which is no small feat. It’s like a TV Olympics but instead of every four years its every four hours. You crave alone time — no, not being social with friends, alone time.

Looking back and reading the above, its pretty obvious to see how drinking snuck up on me. I always liked to drink. I came from a drinking family. Yet, the episode that happened to me at 31 with my job was traumatic enough to cause things I had never done before. Drink before anxious phone calls. Drink in the morning. Drink to perk up. Drink to pretend to be in a good mood. I honestly think this event may have happened at the worst possible time. I wasn’t yet making super big boy money that I could just coast for a few years until the dust settles. And, the prospect of new jobs and/or industries was now dim as this was on my permanent record. My friends were starting to have kids with their spouses and now I was in both financial and personal dire straits. Not the best time to be the bedrock of responsibility that comes with being the stoic father. Yet, also bad timing given the age for the natural course of things in life as described above. We would move from the city. The amount of house chores and/or home depot runs are mind-blowing. It’s as if all of your goals for society and personal growth takes a backseat to clogged gutters. I would want a drink to help chores be more fun. Ya know, put on that old classic rock that your Dad listened to on Sundays from some archaic boom box while cutting the lawn in his jean shorts and tube socks. Removing clutter is good for the mind, to never stop drinking while doing it is not. Then, with kids. I hope I don’t piss anyone off with this, but kids are insanely tedious and boring. As I said, you’re getting older, your back hurts, your knees crack like tree-branches, and you’re now constantly bending down and/or on said knees. Playing with kids makes watching paint dry seem as if it’s some UFC cage match. So, you throw a few drinks in to spice it up. All of a sudden you make the Eiffel Tower with blocks or legos. You think somehow drinking may just be a lifeline and an inspirational supplement to help your children develop, not a depressant. Its more couch time than you ever dreamed or would have ever wished for in college. You don’t have the capacity to workout and if you do workout, it pisses off your partner who wants things to be 50/50. The need for escape and/or easy sleep when it comes time to it is profound. You’re alone so much you don’t have any choice but to drink alone.

In closing, with respect to my man George Clooney, it’s a perfect storm. Jobs get more serious the same time personal lives get more serious. You are stretched all while you’re not as limber — perhaps both mentally and physically. Most parents I know seem as if they are always playing catch-up, as if they are getting C’s across the board when they are used to getting A’s in maybe two subjects (work and/or fitness). So, please be vigilant. Look for the warnings signs. Let yourself off the hook when it comes to overexertion. Your bounce back is simply not there for so may reasons. If I could do it again, I would start this process of new hobbies/journaling earlier on. It could be there as an outlet. I would be the health supplement whore I am today. Just know that drinking is like steroids for the aging process. Short term benefits in the moment of clouds lifting, long term decline and withering away. No need to climb Mt. Everest at 38. Climbing into bed early with a pen and paper and creating something may be just as gratifying, and certainly more restful.



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