The Journey Begins, Again

Posted: August 6, 2013 in McTrip posts
Tags: , ,

labyrinth

This is a blog about transformation in middle age. Not just starting over but becoming almost a different person.

My generation just lived through something very unique: hitting Middle Age during the Great Recession. It’s been the perfect storm. Life was one way, a seismic event hit, and the rest of life was suddenly thrown way off course. We were unprepared for the unexpected. And we no longer have the luxury of youth, which, in the New Economy, appears to be 90 percent of the battle.

This is a blog about my story and my friends’ stories. We find ourselves in a boat that’s half full of water — not knowing if it’s filling up or draining out. If we can find meaning and purpose

in our lives again, then we can look back and say it wasn’t sinking after all, and we’re back floating on the high seas. But if the water keeps rising, we visualize our own personal Titanics.

I have to believe that our collective boat can indeed be bailed out. Because the people you will meet here, including myself, are good people with integrity and intellegence. We’ve had our chances to give up and haven’t. We’re educated, kind, moral people whose lives have been turned upside down by the economy. And we happen to be of that certain age called middle. My generation, which will likely be the first in American history to NOT have it as good as our parents when all is said and done. And for many of us, including myself, we’ve learned to accept that. Because part of this mid-life reinvention has been to ask, what does “having it good” really mean?

This blog will have very little to do with being gay, although I am. Still, I believe it’s pertinent to my situation. I started having sex with other men in 1982. It was roughly the same time gay men were dying and no one knew exactly why. Of course we know now it was, and still is, AIDS. It seemed logical (at the time) that the same thing was going to happen to me. That I would die young. I was in my early 20s and didn’t expect to live too long into my 30s. Adding to that daily anxiety was my fear of getting tested. I went through all of my 20s never submitting to an HIV test. So, in the back of my mind, I not only assumed I would die young but also assumed I was already infected. And thus, just waiting to die.

Needless to say with that state of mind, long-term planning wasn’t a big priority back then. Goal setting seemed unnecessary. As much as I love Eckhart Tolle and the idea of living in the moment, it didn’t serve me well back then. As I lived my 20s “in the moment,” I tossed aside any concern for the far off future.

I’ve just completed my fifth decade of life (a more palatable way to say I’m 50) and I’m paying the price for that short-sightedness. If I had spent my 20s working towards something in my life, rather than worrying about dying, my 50s would probably be a much easier time than they are.

The silver lining is, I’m not dead and still HIV negative.

Life wasn’t just better in my 30s, it was nirvana. It was the ‘90s and they were roaring (like the ‘20s must have been). Early in the decade, as we learned more about AIDS, I discovered that perhaps my future wasn’t predetermined after all. Maybe I wasn’t going to die young.

The environment in America was generally euphoric in the ’90s. The economy seethed with prosperity. It felt like the American Dream.

I started a real estate career in the late ‘90s as an agent and investor and built what became a very comfortable and seemingly limitless life. I started amassing a real estate portfolio of rental properties largely financed by the very loans that would later bring down the entire American economy.

At the peak of the market and the economy, my partner and I purchased our dream home, a much larger house than we needed, but it was an architectural masterpiece. It was one-of-a kind and I had to have it. It wasn’t perfect, so we borrowed more money to try and make it perfect.

The details of what happened to me in the ensuing years are predictable and not much different than what happened to millions of other Americans. The value of my real estate holdings, my business as a real estate agent, and the investments I had in the stock market all took a huge nosedive. Early on I assumed it was temporary, that it was just fluctuation in the market that had to be endured until things got better again.

With the Great Recession behind us, what’s left is this. Today’s economy is still unkind to the middle class and the middle aged. Things have improved, yes. But it feels like it’s improved about as much as it will, for people like me late in life. There may be another American economic boom in our future, but probably not until I’m far to old to participate in it.

America is a place that bears little resemblance to the pre-recession days. I’ve learned to live with it. It’s taken years to adjust, financially and emotionally, to the new realities of the New Economy.

Most importantly, it’s forced me into making drastic changes in my expectations and my standard of living. Changes that have made me a better person.

Therein lies the root of Dawn 4 Dinosaurs. Unlike our real dinosaur predecessors, ours has a pleasant ending. That is, if you’ve allowed yourself to learn something along the way.

(to be continued…)

Jim McCleary

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Comments
  1. Steve says:

    Your story is the story of many including my own. Thank you for expressing it so eloquently.

  2. Aaron says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s helping me understand the changes around me and happening to me.

  3. micklockey says:

    I found your blog through a posting over at Upod. I like your writing; it feels authentic to me. In my humble opinion, I wouldn’t necessarily forgo the gay middle age stuff. It might well be a key element that distinguishes you as a writer and from other “transformational” blogs. Most of gay middle age writing is elegiac in tone and infused with melancholy — think Andrew Solomon and Edmund White (I just finished “Chaos”). As much as I admire those two writers, their writing can be dispiriting, and while poetic, doleful. What we need is a new way to look at being gay and middle aged. Get at it!

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