Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Middle Age Blues


I had never really understood this concept of middle age blues till, of course, I hit middle age myself. Isn’t that true of all of us that only the problems that can afflict us are worth considering while problems that may or may not afflict other people may as well not exist?

Now if you are all agog to hear about hypertension and cholesterol, please skip over to another blog. If you are eagerly scanning this piece for nuggets of wisdom about how to deal with rebellious teenagers, I am afraid you are digging in the wrong mine. Nor, indeed, am I about to satisfy the thirst for knowledge about how to attain Nirvana. For all such trivial problems you can approach a doctor or a psychologist or the nearest guru – for none of them can be granted the exalted status of Middle Age Blues.

Put simply, Middle Age Blues refers to that state of angst where the middle aged man feels the purposelessness of his life. (I shall not debate that stupid idea that it refers to the quest for a problem where no real problem exists!). The young always have a purpose even if it is only to get the autograph of the latest starlet to shed her clothes on the Silver screen (or the latest hunk to do the same, lest I be accused of sexism). The old know the purposelessness of purpose – since there is no purpose to be achieved by their having a purpose, given the shortness of their remaining stay on Earth. So, this is something that peculiarly afflicts the middle-aged.

I classify people with Middle Age Blues in three categories. I make no pretense of having made a comprehensive classification of all middle-aged people who are so afflicted and, most certainly, this classification does not encapsulate all middle-aged people.

The first category – call it MAB1 – comprises of those who had worked towards a goal and achieved it. Now, they suddenly find that they are unable to think of another achievable goal to work towards for the rest of their ‘productive’ lives and find themselves moving around aimlessly. To illustrate, assume someone had set himself the goal of becoming the Chief Rat-catcher in his town. Let us say, he does become the Chief Rat-catcher in the town by age 45. Now he sees an endless vista of life chasing the rats and rat catches of his town; no viable possibility of hitting Chief Rat-catcher for the State within his working life – so feels blue. In short Middle Age Blue 1!

The second category – MAB2 – comprises of those who have been working towards a goal and find themselves so far short of it at middle age that they have no conceivable way of reaching it by the time they come to the end of their ‘productive’ lives. Consider another person, who has also yearned with every fiber of his being to become Chief Rat-catcher of his town, and has only managed to hit Assistant Apprentice Rat-catcher by 45. The exalted station of Chief Rat-catcher is so far ahead of him that he cannot conceivably aspire to reach those wondrous heights before he is chucked out of the work-force and, thus, feels blue. In short Middle Age Blue 2!

The last category – MAB3 – comprises of those who have been working towards a goal and, regardless of how close they are to the goal, they suddenly discover that they actually liked a different goal after all and working towards this goal was a colossal waste of time that had denied them the opportunity to try to achieve their real goal. Like a person who wanted to become Chief Rat-catcher; is currently Additional Chief Rat-catcher; and discovers that he really does not want to spend lives chasing rats but wants to chase butterflies instead but it is too late to become competent at it. This type of Blueness is MAB3 (maybe MAB3A since a person who has been floating with the tide without a goal may suddenly be afflicted with that goal achieving disease and become blue thereby falling in MAB3B).

If you start citing old people who are afflicted by one of these or young people afflicted by one of these, the problem is not with the analysis but with their mental age. As for the middle-aged who are not afflicted by any of these, it must be because they have used all their thinking faculties on those silly problems I mentioned at the beginning; or because they stick to their goals and achieve them only close to the end or because they find a new goal that seems achievable to them or because they have learned to enjoy floating with the tide.

You cannot give any dissertation of this nature without someone poking his nose into where you belong in the above categories. Actually, in none! There is one last category – people who float with the tide and continue to float with the tide happily since no-one told them that Life should have a purpose!


If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

74 comments:

  1. Happy floating alwaaaays !!!!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks Indu! I intend doing it as far as I can :)

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  2. Suresh, You left out the fourth category MAB4 who are working towards the greatest goal working to pay their EMIs

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    1. They don't belong in the exalted MAB category :) Those are one of the ones with 'silly' problems :)

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  3. MAB3 is disastrous! Excellent analysis Suresh

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    1. Thanks Sibi! Great to see you here on one of your rare appearances :)

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  4. Hehehe...The rat catcher cracked me up...god!! that is scary as I would be there down the lane...I don't want to think of any purpose here ;)

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  5. "no-one told them that Life should have a purpose" .. That's my State.. But reading MAB3, I am scared if if suddenly find a purpose.. :)
    Good one Suresh!

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  6. when exactly it starts? i guess, i have been suffering from this problem since teenage.

    wonderfully narrated! enjoyed it thoroughly, although i find your writing bit complex at times and have to read certain lines a few times to comprehend properly (lack of education :D).

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    1. Hahaha! Noe Debs, not lack of education on your part but lack of patience on mine. I am in a hurry to finish generally and try to cram everything into one sentence :)

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  7. That is a cogent paper on MAB, Doctor Suresh! I must be gravely muddled in my mind that finds itself fitting in all those categories. Could it be that I am the rat itself?

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    1. Hahaha! Now that is a difficult position to achieve, Uma! Trust you to manage that :)

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  8. and here i thought i had hit mid life crisis considering the average human life has decreased to 50-60 yrs.. N irony i knw ill b MAB 3 still nt working to correct it :)

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    1. That's an irony all too common in the world :)

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  9. superb as usual! this is one hell of a rat -race you don't want to be in! and people who fall into the last category are the happiest! "khavanu, pivanu, majja ni life"

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    1. Exactly! But then knowing that and being that are two different things :)

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  10. How very well put. I can identify with all the three rat catchers. It's like you have given words to my chaotic thoughts.


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  11. As usual, a wonderful write up. Keep going Sir...

    Travel India

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  12. Great read, Suresh! You have captured the essence of Middle Age blues so perfectly. Reading your post, I realized I have been middle aged since I was a teenager!

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    1. That's an accolade indeed coming from you, Subho!

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  13. Yes Suresh! We see shades of them alright! Very well written. I am also a drifter now. For me, happiness is the final purpose of life.

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    1. Ahem! Even these guys started out pursuing happiness, Rachna! The problem is that they thought they would be happy if they achieved their goals :)

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    2. You are right :). But I meant inner happiness that comes from being in tune with oneself not with material possessions. We will save this discussion for another time :).

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    3. Ah! Well! There we are in agreement. Remember I am the guy who walked out of working at 41 in order to do what pleased me :)

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  14. Amazing one again....Mab2 is what probably plagues mst f da folks around...we tend to dream king size while young ...by 45 we realize that the golden period is ovr and the dreams r far from reality....sinking feeling I guess...

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    1. How true that, Soham! MAB3 is not very infrequent either :)

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  15. quite an analysis..i am wondering where do i fit...a little here, a little there...thrishanku??

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    1. People do not fit into categories perfectly, do they? An imperfect species the human species :)

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  16. There is an MAB5, which is taking up impossible goals (like catching all the rats on the earth, moon and mars) and not even achieving 0.01% of it and then getting fed-up. Rare species, but they exist and are an epitome of self-torture ;)

    Destination Infinity

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    1. That is only a special case of MAB2 - of realizing that you cannot achieve your goal :)

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  17. What about those who don't have a goal? I think they have already achieved the wisdom of old age.

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    1. I certainly hope so - those are the ones I talk of as 'floating with the tide' :)

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  18. Well said and the classification is quite interesting. Glad its not MBAs or else we have too many. Making resolutions each year and having some targets and goals are part n parcel of life. However, a majority of people still do not know what are life goals. Knowing and pursuing life goals is another interesting aspect of the journey of life.

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  19. enjoyed ! and yes mental age does matter ...so yes I am hitting MAB ...and after reading your post I realize that i belong to the third category ...really ...I just love ur style of writing ...

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    1. its A ... I keep changing my goals ....just few days back I thought I was going to gift the world a great flautist and now I am already planning to be a great chef ;)

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    2. That;s relatively OK! B would hv been such a pity :)

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  20. Wonderful! loved it!
    Thankfully I don't fall in any of these categories:) but still have my share of blues:):)

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    1. Into every man's life some blue must fall :) This is only about those who are permanently blue in their middle age :)

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  21. These categories are quite appropriate for Quarter Life crisis, as well!
    Loved the post :)

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    1. What do I know? :) I have always been a floater :)

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  22. lovely write up,,,,,i totally agree wid the idea of life shud not hav any purpose it shud be accepted the way it is and be happy :)

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    1. I always knew there were lots others like me :) Thanks for coming here and confirming it :)

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  23. Lovely post cs! I have these sort of feelings too and I am just in my 20's! Do I need to get myself checked or is it normal?

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    1. DS! If it is every now and then, that's normal for everyone.If it is permanent, then you are in trouble :)

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  24. Interesting analysis. I am hitting middle age soon..but have always had a floating goal and believe happiness is not in achieving in goals but it is in each moment that you are in peace with yourself.

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    1. That's my definition of a floater. Like when i am writing a post, there is a goal of completing it - and that is all the goal-setting I do :) People who live like that are blessed in my opinion.

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  25. Loved your classification Suresh !! I am closest to MAB3 !! Never wanted to be a chief rat catcher or a rat either. The problem is that I still don't know whether I want to chase butterflies :).

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    1. Hmmm! Shift to not having goals, Ash! Life is more fun that way, take it from me :)

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    2. I am with moonstone on this one! I know what I don't want - very clear there - problem is I still am not completely sure about what I do want! Nice post from you - different than the ones I have read on your blog! More serious :)

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    3. Hmm! Means you hvnt read a single one of my 'Philosophy' posts. Those are real serious :)

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  26. Superb analysis Suresh ....And as others wished, Happy FLoating :D

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  27. Great post, Suresh. MAB need not affect only those in their middle age, does it? I find a lot of young people exhibiting symptoms of MAB.

    I think I have been through MAB1, MAB 2 and MAB 3. Right now, I'm only enjoying life :-)

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    1. Joined the floaters, Sudha? Great place to be :)

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  28. You've given me a purpose, Lavender Bubble Bath to float in. Will shop in the evening

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  29. "Floating with the tide is the equivalent of having attained Nirvana": The Gospel according to the Jain Oracle

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  30. Excellent analysis, Suresh! The smooth flow of this post actually made me float away into the thought that goal and purpose are not the same thing. There maybe a hidden purpose to life, but it is certainly not to chase after a goal, even if the goal is as grand and noble as being the chief rat-catcher. Floating in itself could be the purpose. Oh well, but you are the philosopher here, so you ought to know better :)

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    1. Hahaha! Me- a philosopher? All philosophers will be turning in their graves :)

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  31. Ali might say that those who float like a butterfly sting like a bee. Deep thinkers have made it known that not having a purpose might in in itself be a purpose. (A smile emoticon here) Witty post, Suresh, and you do in your inimitable way make people think, think without getting a migraine that is.

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    1. THAT is praise - always sought to make people smile AND think :)

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  32. When did you write this? Surprising how I have not read it. As you precisely know I am at this point of time - I am a new type - I never had any dreams of becoming rat catcher - just that the rat catcher guild caught me. Never aimed but became chief rat catcher of town anyways. Now they will throw me out if I don't demonstrate capabilities to become chief rat catcher of state and I realize I don't want to catch rats but no idea what I want to catch

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    1. March 12, 2013, says Blogspot :) So, you have gone where life takes you but think you need to have a goal :) Not exactly a new type - MAB3B :)

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