I am turning 50 this week. Aside from buying Ray-Ban wraparound sunglasses with my latest prescription, the mid-life crisis has not been too full of over-compensation. Perhaps too much over-eating. Sure, I could be insecure and blame others, but I leave that to the orange one. Over the course of the past few years, I have realized that I am really quite lucky.
I am mostly healthy, and my family is mostly healthy, I have lost only a few friends and only one non-grandparent relative. That will certainly be changing, and I know that I am not really ready for it.
I have never broken a bone (mine or anyone else's), and only sprained a few ankles. I can still play ultimate reasonably well, and now have revised how long I expect my frisbee career to last well beyond 50. Thanks to the old guys in the Montreal leagues for showing me how it is done. Despite one stupid skiing accident (trying to stop fast to throw snow on my daughter), I can still get down the mountain ok. Climate change may end my skiing career before my body breaks down.
My daughter is thriving in college, working far harder than I ever did and getting far better grades. That she is pursuing a far more challenging career, in film-making, amazes me. My wife has been willing to move wherever my career took me (well, she put some limitations but none that mattered), and has done all of the family accounting, which my research/conference/book promotion travel greatly complicates. She continues to indulge my silliness, whether it is comedy shows (Carrie Fisher this weekend), my Star Wars obsession (Carrie Fisher this weekend), or blogging (Carrie Fisher this weekend). We have a lot of fun together--and the ride has been far less bumpy now that the daughter sleeps past 5 am. My extended family is thriving, with the next generation doing great in college or about to start that cool part of their lives. I am pretty happy to be doing something for some of them that will probably be the best thing I ever do.
I have been very lucky in my career. Yes, there have been bumps in the road, and my success in job talks is below the Mendoza line (under .200). I do have one professional enemy as far as I can tell, but only one. I have amassed a large group of super supportive co-authors for my various projects, helping me to pursue my curiosity as far as it takes me. In the past, that meant places like Hungary and Romania. More recently, that has meant Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In the next year, it means Japan, South Korea, and a hunk of Latin America. I have experienced plenty of rejection--jobs, articles, grants--as it is inherent in the enterprise, but I have been able to get enough funding to do what I want to do.
I have now ended up at a place that is pretty perfect for me--in a national capital, which means great access to policy makers, with students deeply engaged in the policy world, and a great set of colleagues. I do miss the students from McGill and the friends I made along this very long and strange academic journey, but I am really loving this phase of my career. And it will probably be the longest one.
I have not bought a sports car in my mid-life partly because I am too cheap, but because I have mostly confronted my major insecurities: fear of missing out, imposter syndrome, and so on. I used to feel left out of the reindeer games and uncertain about why people put up with me. Facebook, twitter and other social media are very handy for reminding me of the connections I have made over the year and renewing them. The birthday wishes that pile up thanks to Facebook are quite meaningful--making me feel like Sally Fields or Stuart Smalley.
Lot of words to reflect on where I stand today when I could have just posted the oft-posted: