TEDIOUS professional obligations, internecine office politics, and intransigent subordinates have successfully transformed me into an old geezer–whiny, irritable, prone to various forms of rage (i. e., road, train, work, phone and of course, text-messaging). This is according to my wife, who has continued to look ten years younger, has managed to stay cheerful, and has successfully avoided conflict with any living entity, including but not limited to God, the Holy Trinity, and the various self-important fogeys at UP’s English Department.
Meanwhile, despite my very best efforts, I remain her diametric opposite, a slightly overweight, intense male whom many people refuse to believe is her husband.
Revealing these juicy biographical tidbits, I suppose, is my way of confessing that yes, I may already be struggling with a mid-life crisis, and no, I haven’t turned fifty yet.
But I might as well have.
Each time I climb out of bed in the morning, I immediately feel a general dissatisfaction with life and the world in general, an impression that has not been dispelled ever since I finished college and joined the workforce.
My difficult bouts of angst and anger is not in any way assuaged by a regular, two-hour, thrice a week session at the gym.
According to a friend who now has a wonderful life earning a huge salary working for a multinational firm, any physical exercise, if done repeatedly, is likely to produce some chemical in the brain, which makes you feel good.
Apparently, my brain has run out of the substance or has given up altogether.
After countless leg raises, sit-ups, and bench presses, I still feel no better than usual, only more exhausted and more inclined to produce sweat, body odor, and germs that cause athlete’s foot and jock itch (which, by the way, is worse than athlete’s foot).
This is not helped by the fact that the guys I get to hang out in the gym in between our sets are males my age who have basically the same complaints–corruption and the padrino system inside and outside government.
Take X., who from what I gather, is a jail guard who is as honest as they come.
Earning only less than P15,000 a month, X. has managed to keep body, soul, and integrity intact even though he is sometimes sent to go after dangerous criminals who were able to escape through the cooperation of their guards–the very same colleagues of X.
Now, how does one even begin to work given these conditions?
How does one continue to struggle, day after day, against a flawed system that will eventually work against your favor?
I myself have no answer. Nor does X.
But he keeps on at his job, joking that one of these days, he’ll set some Korean drug lord free so that at least he could savor some of the benefits that his colleagues have been enjoying.
Except that no one takes him seriously.
After all, if he did that, he’d move to a fancier gym, buy a new car, and get a better apartment.
But in recounting X.’s daily struggles, whether in between sets of bicep curls or turns at the stationary bike, I am reminded that my all of my angst–work-related or otherwise–are far too trivial to be indulged. While I may arguably have a mid-life crisis, I’m taking the advice carved on the paperweight of Meyer Berger, one of the New York Times’ legedary reporters: “Illegitimi non carborundum est (Don’t let the bastards wear you down).”
Photo above shows my wife and I onboard a ferry from Bellano to Bellagio in Italy. Quotation and story about Meyer Berger above taken from page 20 of John Hess’s My Times: A Memoir of Dissent bought at the Strand Bookstore in New York. (Naaks. Italy, New York, smart and pretty wife–and he says he’s unhappy.)