The Midlife Crisis
Don't laugh. It's real. If you've won the lottery and married a sane woman, if you've both put in your time and money to save, build and lay the foundations for the good life - eventually, contrary to the boys of the Manosphere...you will be in a position to collect. It doesn't happen overnight. It's a very, very slow process. One day you will be shocked to find you have a pair of pants for every day of the week in the closet. You'll be bowled over by the fact that you still have a bank balance after all the bills are paid. The day comes when the kids move out and silence reigns in the house. The repairs are all handled and all that's left is the petty nickel and dime stuff. You have money in case a car blows up or the roof needs to get done. You have time to think...and as is your habit, you are going over that mental spreadsheet looking for fires, crises, problems that HAVE to be dealt with RIGHT NOW...and there's nothing. Except crickets.
Cool, right? There's no life or death five alarm fires to drain the bank account, no summers to be spent trapped in the yard doing landscape work ... and maybe you have some seniority at work and maybe some perks to go with it...and the crisis question is 'What do I do now?' You don't have to look after anyone because they can look after themselves. Women can cope with it because they make work for themselves if nothing is available...and you have to too. It's either that - or the couch in front of the TV. If you've gotten this far in life...that is NOT an option. There are more idiots on TV than there is on the internet - trust me.
Some men get stupid. My friends Rotten Rob and Baloney Bob got into booze and hot rod kit cars.
Wanna do 60 MPH around a traffic circle in a car that doesn't even lean? This is your ride.
They had a lot more money than I did. And poor Rob...he got in a lot more trouble. The boys would take a bottle or a sack of road rockets out on Alberta's lonelier secondary highways and race these rocket ships and try to kill themselves. Rob couldn't handle it. He got an impaired driving charge and that right there is enough to end most men. You lose your wheels for six months. I've heard that men lose their jobs and their families when they can't get around. They literally take your driver's license and drop it in the shredder. Awhile later he got caught driving without a license. I went over to his acreage one day and pleaded with him and asked him what was wrong with his fuggin head? He and I were 41 at the time with a good jobs, homes and half our lives ahead of us. Awhile after that he got a SECOND impaired. "He's going to jail this time," we all said...but the lawyers got him off. Then he got a THIRD one and still didn't do time....and still, when we were together, Bob would fill him up with booze and it was like pouring gas on a fire. I stopped hanging around with them at that point...I didn't want to be around for the train wreck. Ran into Bob again a decade later - he still has his car and his business but he has had a few close shaves too. He got pissed up one day and lost a finger on a table saw. He's blind in one eye because of another stupid work accident. He still drinks and drives and revels in the stares of the young tire biters and hotties when their heads turn to see him go by in his heavy metal war machine. We are different men now that we are old farts and have nothing in common anymore. Both of those guys sound like utter morons (and they are) - but if you met them to chat and didn't know it you would probably think they were great guys. It was the damndest thing I ever saw. They never got past the mid-life crisis. Dunno what ever happened to Rob, I hope he's alright.
As for me...I always wanted to fly. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to fly. So I took lessons but the Cessnas and the Pipers and the small planes of Alberta's former flying farmers are hideously expensive to operate and to store today. Hangar fees are outlandish. You can't do your own maintenance anymore so that has to be done only by a certified AME. Only the ultralight aircraft are exempt from the layers of bureaucratic legislation and gubbermint mandated flubdubbery... so it was that I made my mistake.
What in hell was wrong with MY fuggin head?
Like Baloney Bob and Rotten Rob I am not a stupid man. I'm not smart either - the chit house IQ tests I have taken put me around 115~125. When I bought the aircraft that little voice in the back of my head - the one everyone has in the occipital part of the brain where common sense resides - well, it went NUTS! It's the part of the brain that manages the Emergency Shut Down procedures when you are about to do something staggeringly stupid that might even kill you. And of course, it correctly assessed my actions as Darwin Award worthy. The Red Alerts started to hoot so I shut them off without a second thought. The ESD protocols initiated and I did a manual override. I. WAS. GOING. TO. DO. THIS. Dammit, I knew the risks and did it anyway. I couldn't even say I was drunk at the time as an excuse!
And so I did. And 10 hours in - I crashed and wrote off the machine. You need to understand that in model aviation as in ultralight aviation - EVERYONE crashes. Even if you fly the bigger aircraft of general aviation long enough - they will too. Most of us do it on the upward side of the learning curve when our experience is at the lowest. When ultralighters crash it is usually non-fatal (but not always) - and usually involves broken limbs. The overall risk factor here for these things is on par with a motorcycle. If you do everything right you'll probably be okay - but you are on the edge of Murphy Country and if you forget it - Murphy will remind you where you are. If you're REALLY unlucky...Darwin and the devil will help him.
My crash, as far as Murphy, Darwin and the devil were concerned, was a done deal. My engine crapped out at about 400 feet on climbout and I was up there and alone with those ass hats for copilots...and it was a feeling I will never forget. I looked behind me to see if a turn around was possible...forget it. More precious altitude lost. I looked ahead because I was going to land on whatever was in front of me...which turned out to be a field of standing canola on one side and the town sewage lagoon on the other. To my credit, I didn't lose much altitude making that choice, HAR HAR HAR! Recalling some armchair discussions with the hangar rats, landing on a standing crop can be done in one of two ways: go in hot and fast and hope that the crops and roots tear loose when they catch your landing gear...or finesse it in by going in slow, and stalling the aircraft and 'belly flopping' it for your final approach. What happens after that is in the hands of God. More altitude lost as I pondered all that - and then made my decision. It will live with me always: deep in the subconscious where spirits lie and logic fears to tread, Darwin, Murphy and the devil roared with laughter. As for God - He just smiled. I was in the worst place an inexperienced ultralight pilot could be. I pulled in the control bar, dived to pick up speed...and hoped for the best. I was on my own.
Or was I?
Praise God, I didn't lose my chit and gibber in fright, I didn't moan with fear or panic like all men secretly fear they will when it's all on the line...I flew my aircraft in all the way with the resolute determination of a CF-18 fighter pilot. At least now I know courage is not something I lack. I picked a spot of shadow on the field for an impact point and headed into it with all the speed my little airplane could muster - about 40 knots but to me it might as well have been 150. That is still plenty fast enough to kill you! Seconds before I hit the spot, it flashed under my wheels - and then I crashed. And rolled. The sun and horizon swapped places three times before the wreck came to rest. When everything stopped moving I was hanging upside down from the seat straps and all was silent. Calmly I ran through my end of flight list - in this case, by wiggling my fingers, then my toes, and finally my arms and legs and noted with delight that they all still worked! I unbuckled, and sprawled across the dirt...and then crawled out from under the wing. My proud little airplane was dead. It would never fly again...and neither would I.
Pushing through the canola I sprawled down at the fence line between the field and the sewage lagoon. The exhaustion of reaction set in and I set down my helmet the same way Chuck Yeager probably did when he had to bail out of a dying bird. I had the coolest green canvas/leather jacket and looked every inch the intrepid aviator. And...it was all bullshit. I was the same bum that I was when I woke up that morning...but different. You could have used me as a model for an action figure! But it was then that I realized it was all ... just bullshit. I started to laugh...and I think my former three copilots started to curse and grumble. My mid-life crisis was over.
Being a man isn't a matter of image or behaviour patterns or games with girls. The social justice wanks actually got it right when they say 'manhood is a social construct' but they missed the boat on the ramifications of that. It IS a construct, it is noble, healthy, wholesome and worthy - and it's something you need to invest in, work at, and build. You aren't born with it. I didn't need the snappy flight jacket, the crash helmet or the sports car or anything else. Ya don't need a ripped body and martial arts skills. Manhood isn't something you can study or duplicate by emulation - it's something you create and become. Nobody can confer it upon you either. It is derived from the self, and refined and honed by experience. You do it with hard work, devotion to your family and friends and possibly God Himself. It's said that God loves fools, cowards and little girls and on that day He had chosen to give me a break even though I was none of those things. I had one of my life's greatest insights - beside a stinking sewage lagoon! Try to tell me there is no God, and that He does not have a sense of humour! I thanked Him for the laugh, for it came at a time when I needed it most!
The next thing I knew, my favorite fellow
village idiot ultralight pilot - JAFO (Just A F****** Observer...a nickname he got from his craven approach to aviation) was fussing over me and fretting as he pulled at my limbs to make sure they all worked and were still attached. He had seen me go in and was almost hysterical with worry. Next, he was on the cell alerting the rest of our 'squadron'. Soon the other morons showed up and crowed with delight. "Text book controlled crash, Filthie!" "Well done, kid, well done!" "You see he took my advice and went in hot? Toldjya so!!! I taught him everything he knows...!!!" They bragged and bagged up the wreckage of my beloved little aircraft and scavenged it for parts back at the hangar...but it was a bittersweet experience for me. "Take what you can boys - no, I won't take your money! And scrap the rest. As for me...I'm done. I can't afford this..." There were some long faces at that. Finding people smart enough to fly and dumb enough to take the risks is a tough proposition.
Today I'm 51 and old and fat and still learning what it takes to be a man. And still failing too! As is everyone else! If I had any advice to offer the young man it's this: manhood isn't a goal or a destination. It's a journey - it's YOUR journey. It's fraught with peril, pain, humiliation and failure - but when things work...Lord knows it's one HELL of a ride. Buy a book entitled "It Doesn't Take A Hero" by Stormin Norman Schwartzkopff. Identify what you want to do in life, make sure your goals are reasonable. Marshal your resources and tilt any and all odds and variables in your favour. Expect delays and fiascos but don't quit, don't make excuses - do the work, persist and prevail. That will get you started. Next, surround yourself with GOOD men - and women! They're out there, you will know them when you see them, and they will know you. They say 'never look back' - but ignore that. Do it often, remember your milestones in life with fondness, and use them to keep your bearings on the road ahead.
And most of all, don't forget to plan for your SUCCESS too. What are you going to do when all is paid for, and you have time and money on your hands? What do you do when your planning and investments pay off and the challenges of your youth are put behind you?