The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Stuck in the Middle, Pt. II

I came upon this post as the result of a Google search, and felt inspired to respond.

I read an interesting article in my local paper this past weekend. The title caught my eye, “Study Finds Middle Age is Misery.” How depressing! I just didn’t agree, so I had to read it to find out more.

Read more below.

The original article is from the Los Angeles Times. Thankfully their title reads slightly more positively…well not really, “Study Finds Happiness Lowest at Midlife.” Here is how the article begins:

“Research released this week has found that happiness over the course of a lifetime follows a universal curve in which the greatest bliss occurs at the beginning and end of life, while misery dominates the middle age.”


The study which will be published in the journal of Social Science & Medicine found that in the U.S. happiness reached its lowest point around age 40 in women and age 50 in men. Many of us are already in this phase of our life. I must say I am happier now than I was in my 20’s. I liked my 30’s and I am enjoying my 40’s.

Richard A. Easterlin, a USC economist who also studies happiness but was not involved in this study, said that “midlife misery is not inevitable. In fact, his research shows that when such factors as income and marital status are included in the calculations, midlife is the happiest stage of life. Finances and family life tend to improve as midlife approaches, he said, and after that things gradually get worse.”

Yikes, again!

How about approaching life more positively? Obviously, we experience challenges and frustrations during each phase of our lives. How we approach these difficulties is important. How we frame things is important. Our outlook on life is important.

One possibility for the findings in the first study…cheerful people live longer, driving the curve up higher.

What are your thoughts?

There weren’t any comments, so I left one.

My thoughts? Too many to share. I came across this post because of a Google search on midlife and ADD.

I’m a 39 year old male with ADD, who was diagnosed as an adult. What I’m dealing with now is the reality that the time in my life when my peers were advancing in career and education, I was struggling to keep my head above water. Everyone moved on without me.

Now, with treatment, I can do much more than I could before. But when I turn to the dreams of what I wanted to become back during my 20s, I find the time to reach for them seems to have passed.

Now, the obligations of work and responsibility of family take precedence over everything else. For moment I thought I had an opportunity to reach for them one more time, but those obligations I mentioned grew and the opportunity faded.

I know where my passion lies. I had the briefest moment to pursue it, and the briefest taste of what that was like. But now, it is something I pursue only when everything else is done and everyone else is satisfied.

In other words, I’m getting the leftovers of my own life. But trying to grab anything than that means shortchanging either my employer or my family.

I’ve attempted to switch to a job more aligned with my passion for writing, but thus far to no avail. Just yesterday, in a meeting, I happened to hear that a job I’d wanted and applied for (spending a lot of time and energy making sure there were no errors in my letter, resume, or writing samples) was going to someone else.

Another blogger, actually. A younger blogger, with a higher profile, who was able to parlay blogging into a writing as a career. Someone with the time and freedom, and at a time in their lives when they have probably fewer responsibilities than they ever will later.

Earlier that day, I happened to be sitting at lunch with a coworker and a former twenty-something coworker who was visiting from her first semester in a prestigious graduate program at a prestigious school. I listened to her talk about how much she enjoyed it. The conversation turned and I found myself trying to explain all of the above.

It was like trying to talk to someone whose language you don’t know, in a language they don’t understand. I gave up, and went back to my desk thinking “This is the kind of person who will graduate in a few years, come back, and probably end up being my boss.”

I went home to my family: a doctor husband who’s was able to become what he wanted to be, and two sons who still have countless opportunities to become what they want to be. As a parent I will do everything in my power to help them.

But, at the end of the day, I have to wonder: Did I miss my turn? Am I already everything I’m going to be?

Sure, at least I got treatment and did better from then on.

But after getting treatment, I started really feeling how much time I’d lost.

What was I doing in my twenties? It all seems like a blur now, but what I mostly remember was spending a lot of time and energy trying to keep my head above water, and not always succeeding. I remember watching other people advance in their careers and educations, while I seemed to be working hard just to tread water, and still occasionally went under. Now I look back and I wonder what happened to my twenties. What happened to those years? They happened, but what happened is something I’m still not sure about.

I tend to look at them as “lost years,” because it’s literally as if at or around 32 years a curtain was suddenly pulled away, and there was light where I’d previously been stumbling around in the dark. The obstacles I’d struggled with in the past were still there, but I could see them clearly now, along with paths around some of them. At thirty-six, I’m finally making the progress I felt I should have been making at twenty-six. It becomes obvious to me when I look up and see people around me doing incredible things at an age when I was stumbling around in the dark.

I’m not sure whether or not I wish I had those years back, knowing all I do now, mainly because there’s a lot in my life right now that I wouldn’t trade for anything — mostly my life with my husband and son. Whatever else might have worked out differently had things gone another way in the past, that is something I wouldn’t want to change. As far as I’m concerned these are the good years; very good years, in fact. What I found myself thinking about this morning is just what those years of stumbling in the dark were for.

And now that I have a modicum of what I didn’t then, I’ve found what it is that I’m good at and have a passion for, at a time in my life when I have the least time to pursue anything much outside of work and family.

And, as an adult, acceptance that I “missed stuff,” in terms of being able to to move forward in a career or education when I was younger, had fewer responsibilities, could set goals and the pursue them unfettered; acceptance that I might never “catch up” to where I might have been by now if I didn’t have ADD or had gotten diagnosed and treated earlier.

By the time I was diagnosed, I had a husband already, and a family shortly afterward. Now, I guess I’m a full-fledged grow-up, with a family, bills, a mortgage, etc. And now, when I stumble upon my passion, the reality is that there are a lot of things that end up having to take priority.

Now, I find myself worrying that—and this isn’t intended to sound as self-pitying as it will—maybe I missed my opportunity to “be somebody” or “make something of myself.” There’s a feeling that something is passing me by right now, and I can’t catch it; that I missed the boat because I got to the dock a couple of decades to late. Right now, I feel like I’m doing far less than I’m capable of. But I can’t find a way to do it without stealing time from work, family, or sleep. It becomes a question of which I’m going to neglect.

It didn’t help that last year I added six more months to my “lost time,” just when it felt like things were taking off. Towards the end of my time at EchoDitto, I’d developed a comprehensive, customizable blogging & social media presentation, and an accompanying manual, which I’d delivered to a few of our clients. It was the result of people at work actually listening when I said what I wanted to be doing, and giving me the freedom to do it.

I think it was the most energized I’d ever felt about a task at work. I was actually working at something I was good at, passionate about, and enjoyed doing. The presentations went well, and by the time I did my third, the CEO of the company attended, and after it was over his first words to me were, “Terrance, that was outstanding!”

I left the company as an employee, and instead became a consultant. I was looking forward to expanding on the work I’d done and delivering it to more people. It felt like things were taking off, finally. It felt like I was getting started, finally. I’d only ever had a series of jobs before.

Finally, I was about to embark on something that might be called a career.

Maybe even a vocation.

I was about to.

Just over a week later, we found out we’d been chosen by an birthmother, and started preparing for our second adoption. As a consultant just starting out, that meant telling people when I met with them about potential work, I had to be honest and tell them we were expecting a baby in few months. In translation, I think what potential clients heard was “If you hire me, I’m going to disappear for a couple of months and have a very different life afterwards.”

I’m sure there were jobs I didn’t get as a direct result, and I know there were jobs I didn’t pursue because I knew we were going to have a baby. But, as you may know, the adoption fell through. And after six months of reduced income, I just needed a job. Or needed just a job. Depending on how you look at it.

A year later, that’s where I am.

These days, if I had to describe where I am, I’d say it’s kinda like that movie The Terminal, the one where Tom Hanks plays a immigrant who arrives in America with no money, where he doesn’t speak the language and can’t talk to anyone. Plus, he’s from a country that the U.S. doesn’t recognize. And he can’t leave the airport without risking deportation, which would mean going back to a country where war just broke out.

So. He sets up residence in the airport.

Except, for me, I in a train station. I don’t know what happened on the way to the station. But I either lost my ticket, or arrived late and missed my train. My train has left the station. Still, there I am with my bags and my itinerary, and I don’t see my train on the schedule any more.

And it’s a pretty crowded station. In fact, I’m surrounded by people. The arrivals and departures are constant, so everyone’s on their way somewhere. I’m surrounded by people who are either just embarking on their journeys to their destinations, or people who have finally reached their destination. In other words, everyone seems either to be on their way or to have finally arrived.

Except, I’m stuck in the station. After all, if I leave the station, I’m guaranteed to go nowhere. The train left I-don’t-know-how-long ago. And I don’t have a ticket any. But I’m sure I’m supposed to be going somewhere.

I just don’t know how, when, or how long I’m supposed to wait and keep myself busy until then.

Besides watching the arrivals and departures.


  1. Lord, I’m happier now than I was in my 20s too! I don’t have ADD, but I lost some years too — it has only been as I get older that have become more confident in myself — and that has made me happier.

    Not sure if I’ll make up those years…but I’m generally okay now!

  2. I’m in my 30s now, and I share the sentiment of others, that I’m happier in my 30s than I was when I was in my 20s. Though I wonder, for those of us who are gay, that part of the reason was our struggles with homosexuality.

    Granted, these days, kids are confident enough to come out when they are barely even teenagers. However, for me, my late teens and my 20s are dominated by a growing sense of isolation because of my sexual orientation. So the late teens and the first half of 20s were lost to a blur of struggling toward my degree in engineering (and barely surviving) and soul searching for my true self.

    By the time I join the whole gay scene, another sense of awkwardness and out-of-place grew for a couple of years before I became comfortable enough with my new found skin. To me looking back, I constantly feel a sense of loss in time…

    Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m settling down to a regular pace… But a sense of anxiety takes hold for my current responsibilities and the down turning economy (first in early 2001, now again in 2008) — so in general, I’m not sure — I suppose emotionally, I’m happier, with who I am, my relationships, etc. But financially and materially, I’m not happy and pretty deep in the red…

  3. Happier? I’m not sure I got my point across, then. My experience hasn’t been that I’m happier than I was in my twenties.

    My experience was that in my twenties — arguably the time of my life when I had the least responsibilities and the most independence — I couldn’t take advantage of it. I couldn’t make the advances I saw my peers making in their careers and education. It was all I could do to keep my head above water.

    Now that I’ve gotten treatment for my ADD, I have more of the ability to do what I couldn’t do in my 20s. But now I have more responsibilities and less independence.

    I don’t know how to reach for the stuff I dreamed of then, now. Because I’m at a point in my life where what I want usually takes a back seat to work and family.

    What I’m finding is that I’m left with the leftovers of my life; whatever time is is left in which there’s not hing I have to do, need to do, or am wanted or needed to do.

    I feel like I big part of my life came and went, and I missed it. I missed the boat.