Anatomy of A Mid-Life Crisis

I attend an annual work conference every October in Bar Harbor. It’s the usual mundane routine of long presentations during the day, with too much drinking and eating in the evening. In 2010 I was at the evening awards ceremony when someone called me to the front of the conference room and handed me a plaque celebrating 20 years of service. I stumbled back to my seat, not because I had too much to drink, but because I was in shock.

The wooden plaque with the obligatory words of praise and congratulations caught me
completely off guard. It should not have come as a surprise — but I guess I had been avoiding the necessary calculations.

That award ceremony began the domino effect in the small, slow part of my brain
dedicated to long-term thinking. If I had been at the same job for 20 years then my 20th wedding anniversary was right around the corner. And if that was true — then I must be very, very close to 50 years old. Let’s see, mom died of cancer when she was only 62. And dad suffered a debilitating stroke when he was 64….

This type of thinking can be very dangerous. Rash decisions and serious midlife mistakes
can result. It’s true that sports cars, Harley bikes, Vegas trips and blonde girlfriends have never really been my thing. Still, attention must be paid when a person is about to tick over the half- century mark. I needed something big — but attainable for a middle-aged guy with a mortgage, a wife and two kids to put through college.

I have been participating in the American Lung Association’s Trek Across Maine for many years. The three-day bicycle trip has always seemed incomplete somehow. It gives just a
taste of the freedom that comes with long-distance, self-propelled travel What if I could do a longer trip — say from Kittery to Fort Kent — and include hiking and canoeing as modes of travel.

It seemed simple enough at the time. I already owned a few canoes, a couple of bicycles,
several pairs of hiking boots and a bunch of camping gear. I didn’t own a Harley.

The next day I sat down and drafted a letter to my boss, explaining why I would not be
available in the month of August 2012.

We live in a state where trails for moving long-distance across the landscape, without the
use of motors, are not only readily available but increasing every year in number and variety. This trip will give me the chance to explore Maine’s new trails and find creative ways to link them together.

And maybe someone along the way can explain to me how I can possibly be 50 years old.