Middle Age Experience

My wife and I are watching Fleishman Is in Trouble on Hulu and I’m really impressed by the writing. No real spoilers here, but I do talk about some basic plot info and some experiences of a supporting actor if you want to skip reading this.

The main character of the show is Toby Fleishman, a recently divorced middle aged hematologist. His successful ex-wife, a New York City talent rep for performing artists, just disappears one day and doesn’t come back, leaving him and his preteen kids in the dark about her whereabouts. He and his kids are in shock and struggle to make their way in a new life without her.

Although Fleishman’s experience is the main plot arc, we also learn about the various struggles his friends are experiencing in mid life.

One of his best friends is Libby, and I find her character especially relatable. Her character is about my age in real life, has been married to a lawyer for a long time, and is having a difficult time getting the recognition she deserves as a female writer at a men’s magazine. She watches as male writers get promoted as she’s passed over.

On the episode we watched last night (S1 E6), Libby was out at a once-a-year party with old friends whom she knew from studying abroad in Israel in college. She’s drinking and having a great time, but as the night turns late, her husband begins to get snippy with her about wanting to leave. She insists on staying while the husband storms off.

As she gets more drunk, her feelings about life start to overwhelm her on how dull life becomes in middle age.

She begins to realize how good her life was when she was young, about things she took for granted. In her search for success and carving out an adult life, she somehow missed that she had so much power in her freedom, which she things she let go of too readily in exchange for stability and security. Now the spice of life has left and all she longs for are the unknowns, the freedom of figuring it all out.

Personally I’ve been feeling some similar things, although not as deeply. I love the life I’ve created, but there certainly is some personal growth involved in settling into life while also trying to meet some of those core needs and desires we all tend to put aside when starting a family and getting on with a career.

It’s a struggle to figure out which needs and desires are reasonable when you have to make sacrifices. That can be a tricky negotiation, one that I’m still figuring out and will likely continue to figure out forever. In my heart I know it’s necessary to carve out some life for myself on this never ending path toward self-actualization. It’s the guilt that can come with that negotiation that can be so difficult to get over.

I don’t know what’s in store for Libby’s character, but it’s comforting just seeing characters in my life stage, at this moment in history, working through similar feelings. In a way, it affirms my feelings that I should be giving myself permission to feel what I feel and explore who I am instead of letting guilt force my hand.

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Bryan @bryan