There are few men in contemporary politics that I respect more than United States Senator John McCain.
Hence, it is not a surprise that one of his remarks right after his diagnosis of cancer caught me with a sense of subliminal profundity that belied its simplicity.
“Every life has to an end, one way or another.”
If I look at the most promising actuarial tables and marry them with the most optimistic prognosis for scientific discoveries, I know that my own life has entered its second half.
No, I have no chronic disease or any major bouts of ill-health; nor do I live a particularly unhealthy lifestyle or engage in daredevil sports. But the law of averages, even calculated with the most rosiest scenarios by the federal Centres for Disease Control and the Social Security Administration, assure me that I have lived a smidgeon over half of my life already.
The meaning of life or the happenings of any afterlife are issues that I leave to the philosophers and theologians to wrestle about; even with a doctorate I am singularly unsuitable for expounding much on such weighty things.
As an individual whose professional portfolio involves measuring processes and outcomes at organisations, metrics of achievement are part of my daily work life. Applied to my own, I have done OK, in that in some things I have succeeded, in some failed, and in many came out just even. Quite unremarkable, if you ask me.
Does this propel me to some great epiphany to change and go into the second half with gusto? Not really. Spontaneity is simply not my thing; the comfort of familiar things is more like it.
To the great consternation of my parents, I kept on returning to the same mid-sized town in middle America to live. In that town, as swankier and glitzier public places have opened up over the years, my hangout has been the same two or three older places.
What does a man like me change in his 40s knowing that more than half his life is over? Not much
For almost 20 years, I have kept faith with the same make of automobile (Jeep, if you must know).
Though they be on my iPhone and iPod, it is still Chris De Burgh, Abba, and Pankaj Udhas whose voices hum in my ears. Heck, even my doctor and dentist have been unchanged over the last two decade.
You get the point: I am in no hurry to blaze new trails in the second half of my life.
In a world where the smallest details of individual lives change at a pace breathtakingly faster than any other time in recorded history, some of us like the reassurance of the known in our personal lives: The old house, the familiar city, the untrendy tavern, the dog-eared books, and so on.
Even as we tap away on the latest iPhones and bravely lecture anyone who would listen to the mantra that “change is the only constant,” or some similar worn out adage.
Would the trajectory towards the inevitable be postponed were I to engage in the typical markers of a mid-life “crisis”?
A shiny new red sports car or a fabulous new house is not likely to prolong my life -- in fact, the former may actually do the reverse! Adding a “fake in name only” toupee to my thinning hairline is only going get me a share of mockery that comes Donald Trump’s way, instead of a share of his power.
Though there is no crisis, these are questions I wrestle with slowly and surely as the linear descend in time begins to the great unknown. I suspect I am not the only one. And the answer that rings true more often than not is this: There is no compelling reason to make drastic changes in vision or values just because I have arrived in the second half of the game.
To some, it is a sign of stagnation; to others, one of mediocrity; to yet a few others, one of profound lack of imagination.
To me, it is the comfort of the known in a world becoming more unknown by the literal minute. Or, to put a dash of the interrogatory on it: What does a man like me change in his 40s knowing that more than half his life is over?
Not much. The second half resumes, just as the first half ended: In search of a respectable draw.
Anything beyond that is, well, a bonus point!
Esam Sohail is a college administrator and lecturer of social sciences. He writes from Kansas, USA.