Life Tends Towards Complexity
Life seemed easier in the past.
When my daughters were little it felt difficult. The sleeplessness, the teething, the endless colds and toddler-tantrums. I pacified myself with dreams of a future where things might be easier. The kids would be independent and rational, I’d be able to reason with them, we would relate as friends, as equals.
Those hopes have manifested to a point, but it doesn’t get easier — just different. Back then their needs were met with a juice box and snack, undivided-attention and their favourite cartoons on TV. Now they look to me for guidance in the mysteries of life, relationships and careers. They want reassurances about the future and help to navigate the complexities of the world.
It’s still loving and positive but it’s more complex being a parent than it ever was.
When I finished education and started work the future seemed simple — I’d work hard, build a career, earn progressively more money and establish the comfortable life for my family that my parents had always provided for me. I’d love my job, climb the ladder and be rewarded with money, respect and recognition. I’d be able to retire in my fifties with many happy years of leisure ahead of me.
I’ve enjoyed a successful career by all typical measures, but it’s never felt easy.
The money has increased but so too have the expenses that life brings. The progression has brought increased stress, not just respect or status. The joy has occasionally been elusive and side-projects to plug the gaps in creative fulfilment (like writing) have proven problematic and testing in their own ways — often as frustrating and demoralising as they’ve been rewarding and stimulating.
I’m committed to the path I’m on, mainly as our lifestyle depends on my income and partly since it’s too late to try anything else.
In a work context, life seems to become ever more complex as the years pass.
This assessment of adulthood is merely my own experience of life to-date — perhaps that’s jaded by the prevailing conditions of 2020 which have made everyone’s lives more challenging.
Nonetheless, my current hypothesis on life is that the more we progress through it and the more we feel equipped to handle, the more life throws at us to test that capacity still further.
Health and vitality used to be taken for granted, but with age comes the heightened risk of our bodies or minds breaking down or simply wearing out. Exercise feels harder. Pounds are more easily gained.
Family and friends whose existence was taken for granted, begin to disappear. Death comes to us all, and for some, earlier than expected.
Our relationships were formed and based upon fun, joy and imbued with a spirit of excitement and possibility. With marriage, kids, mortgages and responsibilities they grow in complexity and present further problems to resolve and difficulties to overcome.
Politics, the environment and matters of community and society are no longer things that the grown-ups take care of.
We’re the grown-ups now and have to take responsibility for those things too.
Complexity and responsibility aren’t things to fear or shy away from.
With age and experience comes resilience and fortitude. With time we learn the skills and earn the judgment to rise to these challenges.
Provided we’re of a mind to expect and take-on such complexity then most of us will take it in our stride, most of the time.
It’s a fallacy though to labour in the misguided belief that life gets simpler as we get older. For some, it might do but that’s not a given.
Maybe it’s a bell-shaped curve where at some point things start to feel easier again — I sure hope that’s the case, that once we discover the meaning to it all the complexity starts to diminish as we enter the second half (or the final third) of our lives.
Speaking for myself, at 44 I wonder when I’ll crest that summit. It hasn’t happened yet. The complexity still increases day-by-day.