Mentorship with 17-year old Kevin has not been going well. He emailed Oprah one day asking for advice on how to be a great leader, which totally violated the mentor-protégé exclusivity clause, so I had to ditch him. Plus, one day, he showed up at my workplace and said, “Mr. Huy, want to go for all-you-can-eat steak for five dollars?” Steak? I had told him at least five times I was vegan and that he was to bring me only gifts that I could consume. What a disrespectful and inattentive kid.
On a different and more depressing note, I think I’m going through Two-Fifth life crisis. That’s when you realize you’re going to approach the middle of your life and you start to question your accomplishments and worth and you feel like you’re letting yourself and people around you down because you’re wasting your talents and you have a pervasive curiosity about bungee jumping and your sentences get all run-on and stuff because you drank too much wine while watching episodes of Xena Warrior Princess on Neflix.
Work has been up and down. I feel like I’m making a difference. But still, sometimes I wake up drenched in sweat, shaking from nightmares of budget deficits, cashflow challenges, inescapable meetings, and worst of all—songs by Jason Mraz played softly on a staff’s computer. The work consumes you. I’ve replaced all my hobbies—writing, drawing, photography, carving small figurines out of wood—with endless hours spent on Netflix, because at the end of the day it’s too exhausting to do anything that requires thinking.
When I was a pimple-faced kid, I imagined that by the time I turned 30, I would have published my first book and be a successful newspaper columnist. With a house and a flying car. And a robot that does the dishes. But now, as a pimple-faced adult at two-fifth of his life, I feel like I haven’t accomplished enough, like I’ve failed myself. During moments of pathetic self-pity, I listen to depressing classic rock songs, like Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” one of the greatest songs ever written, finding the lyrics resonating:
Every time that I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by like dusk to dawn
Isn’t that the way
Everybody’s got their dues in life to pay
After a few minutes, I normally snap out of it. Like I always told Kevin when I was his mentor, “Kevin, make me a lemonade.” No wait, wrong quote. I told him, “Kevin, the things in life most worth doing are usually most difficult. If you want to accomplish your dreams, you must overcome boredom, distractions, self-doubt, temptations to follow the easy path, and poor dental hygiene.”
It is difficult dealing with a two-fifth life crisis, but I should learn from Xena. Does Xena ever feel sorry for herself when confronted with challenges and plagued by her past? Of course not! When trapped in a dungeon, does she wine about it? No, she would just launch a dagger from her cleavage to cut her rope and untie herself. When confronted by a group of bad guys, does she zombie out on the couch with a six-pack singing along to Aerosmith? Heck no, she’d take these mofos down using three fresh fish and a well flung olive.
In this world of internet billionaires, teenage authors, and hypersmart fifth-graders on gameshows, it’s easy to feel like an underachiever. But that’s just another symptom of how spoiled most of us two-fifth lifers are. I should just be thankful for food and shelter. Still, even with that acknowledged, this two-fifth life crisis and the ensuing mid-life crisis won’t be easy to get past. Life hands us more and more lemons as we go. But like I always told Kevin, “You call this lemonade?! Make me a different one!”