I have a theory about the much maligned mid-life crisis. It’s not so much panic engendered by the thought of what you haven’t achieved (and are now unlikely to) half-way through your life. It’s actually angst, kicked off by envy about all that your peers have managed to accomplish in the same period.
It’s not about how you have missed the bus; but how other people have zoomed ahead in their custom-made Harley Davidsons. It’s not about how your life sucks; it’s about how everyone else’s life is so much better. It’s not about how you aren’t living the dream you fantasized about when you were young; it’s about how that joker from the back of the class seems to be living it on your behalf.
Yes, if you ask me, a mid-life crisis is really nothing more than a bad case of terminal envy. And it’s usually brought on by a close examination of what your friends and colleagues have achieved – while you cower in the loser’s corner. It’s the kind of peer pressure that you never had to contend with in the schoolroom. After all, in those days you were convinced that you were going to grow up to become a star.
You would write a best-selling novel, which would be optioned by Hollywood. You would become best friends with Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford. George Clooney would have a mild flirtation with you in between girlfriends. Jay Leno and David Letterman would be vying with one another to have you on their shows. You would fly your own airplane like John Travolta (though you’d probably give a miss to all that Scientology nonsense). Or you would become a world-class cricketer, totting up centuries and notches on your belt with equal facility. You would get within breathing distance of Sunil Gavaskar’s record, you would be an all-rounder to rival Kapil Dev, like Imran Khan, you’d be another big boy who played at night in more ways than one.
Whatever your dream when you were young – whether it involved sports, the movies or best-selling books – I am sure it always had three elements firmly in place: fame, money, power (though not necessarily in that order). And of course, sex. That was a given if you had fame, money and power. But not just any old sex – it was always sex with a woman or man whom the world lusted after but you had snug in your bed. Well, 20 years on, things aren’t looking quite as peachy, are they?
If you are like most of us, you’re probably stuck in a dead-end job that doesn’t give you enough satisfaction, money or free time. Your spouse doesn’t look like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt. Your kids treat you as some kind of bad joke rather than a hero or even a role model. The only holidays you can afford are off-season package holidays in a crummy resort in Goa – and that just once every two years. And then you open the paper one day and see that that git from your school, that idiot who used to copy your homework every single day, has been appointed the head of an international banking corporation. Or that girl who used to come at the bottom of the class has published her first novel to rave reviews.
You log on to Facebook and find that your friends are having the best time in Koh Samui or the Maldives. The villa here is fantastic, reads their update, wish you were here. Well, so do you – but you can’t afford the air fare let alone the stratospheric cost of the said villa. You go to your college reunion after many years and schlep out of your Maruti only to find a slew of Mercedes Benzes, Jaguars and BMWs lined outside. Everyone inside is holding forth on the million-dollar deals they negotiated in the past week, they are parading their trophy second wives who all look like Kareena Kapoor in her size zero phase. They hold forth about how their kids have got scholarships to Harvard and Yale (not that they need it, you understand, they can totally afford the fees) and how they’re planning to buy an apartment in Manhattan to be near them.
Honestly, who wouldn’t have a mid-life crisis listening to all these uber-success stories? You just have to look at poor Vinod Kambli to see what I mean. Here is this young gifted cricketer, best friends with the batting prodigy of all time, convinced that he is going to go places. And yet while his buddy Sachin goes from one batting triumph to the other, poor old Vinod gets left further and further behind on the road to fame and glory.
Are you surprised then that he ended up on Sach Ka Saamna, holding forth on how Sachin could have done just a bit more for him? Of course, not everybody having a mid-life crisis chooses to self-destruct on national television. Some men have affairs with their secretaries or run off with women young enough to be their daughters. Some women take up shopping as a vocation, others take to horizontal jogging with their fitness instructors. And then there are those who buy a big-ticket car that announces they’ve arrived, even though it’s clear to everyone that they haven’t even got started.
Everyone deals with a mid-life crisis in their own way. But in almost every case, it is sparked off by a bad case of envy.