Everything is Boring and my Back Hurts
A manifesto on overcoming the midlife curse and becoming human again
Hello from cool and gray Southern California, where the continuing theme this year seems to be tossing any expectations you've had about the weather here out the window. After one of the wettest winter seasons we've had on record in the last 20 years or so, May is giving way to one of the nastiest spells of the local phenomenon known as "June Gloom” I've ever seen.
June Gloom is a fairly typical early summer weather pattern in the greater Los Angeles area, where the mornings are characterized by a thick and oppressive marine layer that bubbles up off the coast and casts its cool gray shadow wide inland, spilling into the L.A. basin and filling every strip-mall nook and cranny of the surrounding valleys.
Typically the June Gloom effect burns off before noon each day, paving the way to sunny summer days, but this year's June Gloom is proving to be a real persistent sonofabitch, and just flat-out refuses to leave, hanging out 24/7, keeping things unseasonably cool, and completely killing the shades and shorts beachy vibe that we've stacked our reputation on.
The taco trucks are our only saving grace at this point.
In this, the first proper issue of the MidThoughts newsletter, I’m sharing a piece that kind of sums up what we’re all about here and sets the scene for the direction I want to take this newsletter in. I've labeled it as a manifesto, and I think that's a fitting categorization. Consider it the MidThoughts mission statement.
Rise and shine.
When the alarm goes off, it’s still dark outside, and you’re confused, blinking at the dark ceiling above. No way was that seven hours, you think to yourself.
Seven hours. Experts tell us that this is the minimum amount of sleep that a human being should have every night. Yet, even after the noise rattles you awake, you’re still exhausted.
Willing yourself upright and out of bed, your neck is sore. Your shoulder is sore. As you stand, you hear a symphony of cracking bones and mushy cartilage, all popping to life after settling overnight. You take a deep yawn and pull a muscle in the side of your neck.
Black coffee. Something hot and strong to cut through the lingering, residual fog of tiredness. You sit down at the dining room table, robe draping to the ground, pushing aside the scattered utility bills and credit card statements to find a landing spot for your mug.
It’s good coffee. One gulp, and then another. You feel it pooling deep in your stomach, bitter and aromatic, the acid churn of caffeine gradually rousing your spirit back to life—nothing but the gentle hum of an electric fan buzzing in the other room.
After coffee, the entire morning is on autopilot. You’ve been through this rodeo countless times. You’re barely even conscious as you hand the reigns over to muscle memory. While your brain is elsewhere, your body takes you through the motions of showering, shaving, brushing your teeth, and sifting through your collection of nearly identical beige slacks and button-up shirts before settling on a pair for today.
Autopilot disengages abruptly when it comes time to walk out the door:
“Where the hell are my keys?”
But even this is routine. Memory isn’t what it used to be, and hunting down the keys has gradually assimilated itself into the scope of daily routine.
You spend a couple of wild minutes feeling through couch cushions and looking under tables before you pat yourself down and feel them shoved deep into your pocket, exactly where they should be.
Shaking your head, you pull them out, step outside and lock the door behind you.
The commute to work is always the same. The same streets with the same trees zooming by overhead. You begin recognizing some of the same cars caught at the same red lights, down to the same minute as you every morning.
And when you pull into the office, you find that life has thrown you an unexpected curveball: Someone is already in your parking space.
“What? Don’t they know that I park here every morning?” You think to yourself with a grimace spread across your face. “Everybody knows that I park here. Why would someone want to do this to me?”
You begrudgingly accept your fate, pulling into the open space next to the thieving SUV, scoffing at the human race and the history of the ugliness that it has unleashed upon this world.
“These are the same types of selfish monsters who eradicated the Tasmanian Tiger and killed off the Dodo,” you mumble.
Getting out, you sneer at the vehicle one last time as you head into the office.
The morning is peppered with the same dry chatter and office gossip as the day before:
“Did you watch the game last night? Man, I thought we had it until the last ten minutes.”
“Have you seen Beatrice in Accounting lately? It looks like the divorce is taking a toll on her.”
“…Welp, Looks like rain again this weekend.”
Talking for the sake of talking. But I suppose you’ll take whatever excitement you can drum up between the endless stream of paperwork, deadlines, courtesy calls, stand-up meetings, and emails that make up your daily 9 hours of residence in this building. The steady churn of workplace white noise that never seems to end but provides the security you need to keep the gears greased and the machine going yet another day.
And when you finally make it home, your mind is so fried and spent from subjecting it to this wall of mindless, repetitive tasks that you can’t muster up the mental energy required to cook a decent meal or read a few pages of a book. So you resort to doom-scrolling Twitter, putting your emotions at the mercy of the algorithm again before passing out in a broken heap.
Just in time to do it all over again tomorrow. Rinse. Repeat.
This is midlife, an endless barren hellscape, and it has swallowed you whole. This is Groundhog Day, forever on repeat, with all the fun scenes removed. This is what happens when you surrender your soul to the meat-grinder of life.
“Don’t mind me, folks. Just passing through. I earn two decent paychecks a month, enough to pay rent, my car payment, and a trip to Panera Bread every week. Keep your head down, your nose to the grindstone, and everything will be all right. Pay your taxes, come to a complete stop at intersections, and when you’re feeling extra naughty, buy yourself a tub of ice cream from the grocery store.”
Just stay the course for the next 25 years, stick to the script, and with a bit of fortitude and patience, you can cruise all the way to retirement.
There’s no state of slavery more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed.
Yes. This is midlife, but it doesn’t need to be this way.
Routine creates a false sense of entrapment. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we still have options. Recognize the invisible walls that you have boxed yourself in with. See them for what they are, and dare to reach through to the other side. There is no reason why these can’t be the best years of your life.
What’s really stopping you?
Remember who you were as a child. Do you remember when the movies seemed real, and you believed that anything was possible? Do you remember when a box of crayons and a piece of paper were all you needed to create new worlds and let your imagination run wild? Back then, you could dream big and act on it. You could be anything. The possibilities were endless.
Look out of your office window. There’s a big beautiful world out there that has been waiting for you all these years, just as ripe with wonder and discovery as it was when you were young.
It never changed.
The midlife curse doesn’t exist. It’s only a state of mind, and it got its hooks into you the minute you willingly eliminated your options and convinced yourself that you need to just shelve your passions, suck it up, push through the next couple of decades, and then you’ll be the best version of yourself, then you’ll see the world, then you’ll have the time to start working out again, then you’ll really spend some time working on your painting, or your photography, or your writing, or… whatever.
Don’t let the world tell you that you can’t dream big anymore. Don’t let anything as silly as a job keep you from chasing your passions. It’s time to rediscover the world you’ve been “too busy” for.
Today is the day we toss our excuses aside. With the right combination of inspiration, creativity, and courage, we can recapture that endless sense of curiosity from our childhoods and inject some wonder back into our lives. We can code our lives out of this brutal, broken programming loop. We can shake ourselves alive again out of the drudgery and numbness of mummified routine.
We can save ourselves.
Recent indulgences and housekeeping
Album I’m enjoying: Passport by Emi Meyer - I discovered Emi only because there is a new Handsome Boy Modeling School album on the way, with a lead single that she’s featured on. This 2010 album is wonderfully odd and vibey as all hell. It’s essentially a jazz vocal, breezy bossa-nova-tinged collection sung entirely in Japanese. I’m not a speaker of the language, but according to native speakers, there is something unusual about Emi’s word choice, and her delivery is almost stubbornly Western. It’s the kind of wild cultural mashup stuff that I die for and sounds like something you’d hear oozing out of an Okinawan cabana during a summer evening cocktail hour.
Book I read: Stolen Focus by Johann Hari - This is what I call one of those “yikes” books because it addresses a very real issue that we all recognize as a problem, but said problem hasn’t really hit the mainstream collective consciousness yet in the same way that something like the climate crisis has. It may be far too late when it finally surfaces enough to take measures against it. The attention crisis is one of those things that I’ve inherently felt snowballing in my everyday life, and I have watched it gradually manifest itself in the habits of my son, friends, and coworkers. Say what you want about Hari’s past transgressions as a journalist, Stolen Focus is a book ahead of the curve, and I’m utterly convinced it will be seen as a landmark work.
Refined fashion and attire: And finally, a little something for my fellow Gen-X cult film fanatics. Remember the ninja craze that dominated the early 80s? If you’re anything like me, it’s not a question of remembering it because we’re still living it. Well, you too can subvert modern fashion trends and simultaneously profess your acceptance into the legion of the shadow arts by proudly emblazoning the Mexican poster for ninja legend Sho Kosugi’s 1984 stealth assassin masterpiece Revenge of the Ninja across your chest. Republic of Ninja is a new clothing line showcasing the legendary run of Kosugi’s 1980s films that imported Ninjas into the daydreams of preteen boys across the Western world and had us taking up arms of cheap, plastic ninja swords and terrorizing our little brothers worldwide.
That’s it for this week, folks. Please sound off in the comments. Since MidThoughts is in its infancy, your feedback is vital to me in growing this community and delivering compelling content that resonates with you.
If you enjoy the newsletter, subscribe (it’s free!). If you really want to show your support for my work, you can pledge for a future paid subscription, and be sure to join me back here next week (or somewheres around there) for another shot of middle-age inspiration straight to your calcifying veins.