What To Do When Nothing Feels New And Nothing Interests You (In Your 40s)
Ever heard that phrase, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing? Well too much knowledge, of one's self, can be hazardous too.
For many of us, our twenties are a quest to "find ourselves". For those with money that means taking a year long trip to Latin America or Southeast Asia. For those without it means taking weekend long trips with, ahem, some chemical assistance. For both, it's a pretty pointless exercise because you cannot force experience or buy hindsight. I'd venture it takes until your forties to truly understand who you are and what you're about, which is a good thing because self knowledge is a double-edged sword.
Ignorance, as someone far more erudite than I once said, is actually bliss. When you are young you are, in the best possible way, ignorant precisely because of your lack of experience. You don't yet know what you do and don't like about almost anything because you've never tried it (or been hurt buy it). As such, just about everything that happens to you from the age of 0 - 29 is a thrilling new discovery. Each new experience is breathlessly anticipated because it is so full of potential. Every new book, band or film could change your life. Every new trip could be the start of an epic journey. Every night out could lead to a great romance because you have yet to define your your tastes or your limits and, in all likelihood, you have no responsibilities either.
No responsibilities means minimal consequences. Wake up with a hangover - so what? You've nowhere particular to be, nothing important to do. Wake up in another town? Awesome, must have been a brilliant night out! Blown your budget on strippers and blow? No worries, you can live on instant noodles and scrounged fags for month - right? Your lack of self-knowledge is the key to your self-abandon. You cut yourself off from nothing because you know nothing which is, as I say, bliss!
However, by the time you get to your forties you know TOO much. You become filled with preferences, prejudices and responsibilities that stand before your choices.
"Hey, wanna get Mexican tonight?"
"No thanks, I don't like spicy food."
"Hey, fancy seeing the new SAW movie?"
"Nah, I'm not into horror."
"OMG you have to listen to the new Metallica album!"
"I'm not really a heavy-metal guy to be honest."
"Wanna move on to a club?"
"Thanks but I don't really dance and I've got an early start."
And because you know exactly what you do and don't like you see no reason to deviate. It's comfortable but it's also boring and can lead to middle-aged ennui - that feeling, not of having nothing to do, but having nothing that you want to do because your choices are so limited. You can't force yourself to like things that you know you don't and it's not always possible, based on time, cost and availability, to try something completely out of the blue so how do you create novelty when you've seen it, done it and bought the t-shirt?
My best answer is to go deep instead of broad. Yes I know what I like, but could I like more of it more deeply? For instance, I love David Bowie but he's not making any new albums anytime soon so I have recently been on a voyage of discovery to find his influences and collaborators, which has led me to Iggy Pop, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Donny McCaslin.
I love drinking (I really do!), but I no longer enjoy getting drunk so I have taken a deep dive into classy cocktails and spirits, teaching myself to mix and investing in better gear and ingredients. I love vinyl records too so have invested in a decent set up and happily go crate digging at weekends in search of obscure sounds and rare pressings. And I love alt. culture so have set up my Mooreish newsletter, which gives me an excuse to go hunting for books, music, films and art to share with other middle-aged people who once had their finger on the pulse but now can't find it at all!
Honestly, there is no point in me going backpacking , trying wakeboarding or taking a woodworking course. I hate hostels, I can barely swim and I am crap with my hands. But those interests I do have are like little portals, not into larger worlds but deeper ones. This, for me, is the key.