Crossroads at Work: What’s Next?

Category: Social Media Social Good Series, Weekly Columns

Doubt crossroads sign

I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in New Orleans, on the 26th floor, where I’m attending a conference about and for dads. A disturbing dream woke me up in the dark of morning as I hear the sounds of train-horns in the distance and know the Mississippi River is lazing by in one direction and Bourbon Street is in the other direction.

Self doubt comic strip

I’ve been working in the “dad space,” to use vernacular from my second career, for many years now. What began as a monthly short column in a local throwaway paper has grown – in my mind – to a mini-media empire. And, up till this weekend, I was enthralled and loving it.

Now, I’m questioning my place in this space and my place in the working world. There is nothing unique about a middle-aged man having a crisis of faith regarding his place in the world. And, I suppose this is a further consequence from my 38-day trip to Africa and India where I was exposed to so much beauty and so my poverty and tragedy.


My life is blessed beyond belief so this so-called “crisis” is far from a real crisis since I’m not ill, I’m not worried about putting food on the table, there’s no despot or dictator ruling my country (though he may wish to be king), and my family is all doing well and in good health. On many days, the biggest challenge is choosing which restaurant we’re all going to agree upon when we’re too lazy to cook. First world problems, unquestionably.

Talking to myself is often helpful and between some really strange dreams and the non-stop chatter in my brain, I’m sure I’ll figure this one out. Perhaps, it’s a momentary lapse since I’ve been eating too many beignets here in The Big Easy? Perhaps it’s male menopause kicking in? Perhaps, I do need to re-evaluate my work life?

Self Doubt comic strip

Oddly enough, my older son is going through the exact same thing that I’m going through at the moment. He’s changing his mind, seemingly by the hour, about which direction he wants to pursue with his love of music. One moment he’s going to be the next Skrillex, the next he’s going to start the coolest record label since Motown, and the next he’s going to be the Hunter Thompson of his generation. And, that was just yesterday.

But at the advanced age of 20, it’s natural for him to do this flip-flopping and I’m actually admiring his thought process even though it makes his dad crazy at times. And, perhaps it’s infectious and I can really just blame him for having similar hearts-of-mind – or is it hearts-of-palm – fluctuations of thought and self-doubt.

Midwife Crisis

Or, perhaps it’s male menopause. After all, it’s my turn since I’ve only known my wife in various stages of menopause. Shouldn’t I be allowed to have bloating and hot flashes, too?

The flash point that stirred up this mind-mess was attending this year’s Dad 2.0 Summit right here in New Orleans. Looking around the room of mostly dads, and a smattering of moms and other women, I felt like grandpa. I could be the dad of most of these men and women. Many are on the beginning of their parenting journey so seeing a diaper company here as a sponsor makes total sense. The only diapers I focus on are Depends these days, hoping against hope I never need them. Did you know that more “adult diapers” are sold in Japan than those for babies? Useless demographic-fact interlude!

Tarzan's mid-life crisis

It’s not as though I feel old or have any diminution in age, energy, or ambition. I have no desire – money issues aside – to retire and go fishing. I’ve done that and all that happened was that my mind turned to mush and I’m not going there again. But, my relevance and interest in the “dad space” may be waning and how I will re-invent myself for my third act is the pressing question.

There’s no diminution in my love of writing or talking. But, it’s what I write and talk about and how many forms of writing and talking so-called platforms should I continue to pursue that is the conundrum. Do I still need a radio show, a comic strip, a Facebook Page, Instagram, LinkedIn, #DadChat, a syndicated column, several other column series, and another book in progress?

Ape mid-life crisis

The old saw that writing it all down and making a pros and cons list has been partially accomplished by simply doing this column. I am taking breaks in this writing, to try and take sips from the boiling hot coffee my hotel coffee maker just brewed. Hang on a moment – maybe it’s tolerable now.

I actually feel better from this outpouring of self-doubt that will soon be public and terribly embarrassing. Do I have a solution? Of course not. But, my coffee is drinkable now and that’s a good thing.

  • jack43

    I switched careers several times in my life. When one seemed going no where, I simply took a different path. Maybe it was too easy for me. I may not be the smartest knife in the drawer, but I am clever enough to learn new skills quickly.

    Now, in the fifth career of my life, writing, I look back an wonder: What might have happened had I stuck with that? Of course, no one will ever know. This I do know: If I hadn’t done all of the things that I did, even the stupid things (a very poor choice of my first spouse), I would not be where I am today, and where I am today is a mighty nice place to be…

    • Bruce Sallan

      Happily @jack43:disqus I am mostly “over” the momentary crisis. I am clear on where I’m going now and in the near future. Change is always tough but usually good (for us/me)!

      • ginavalley

        Looking forward to hearing what you decided. Nothing is more exciting than change. I’m confident that whichever path you choose will feed your spirit.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Thanks @ginavalley:disqus – how about that coffee when I come back to town?

  • Josh

    Hi Bruce,

    One of the reasons I write about multiple topics is because that is what keeps it fresh. After ten years of blogging what keeps me going is my love of writing but FWIW, I feel a bit disconnected from some of the other dad bloggers too.

    You are about ten years older than I am and I am about ten years older than a lot of them. Our experiences are definitely different.

    My oldest just had his Bar Mitzvah and I am starting to think about middle school for my youngest. Diapers, toddlers and pre-school are all well behind me now. I can relate to the stories, but it is not my focus any more.

    So I hear you.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thanks @TheJoshuaWilner:disqus – we clearly think alike!

  • shawndewolfe

    When I came up to 45, I realized that I had run out of road. I really feel that a mid-life crisis is because we have social programming and the program doesn’t have a way to address being old for decades. This was my approach:

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thanks @shawndewolfe:disqus – I’ll take a look at your column!

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  • Suzi

    Look at the bright side: you’re now the dad that the other dads in the room will look to for answers.

    • Bruce Sallan

      I don’t know about that @disqus_OX2qqtsSiM:disqus but I do know that I’ve made great strides in figuring out my next moves and for that I’m grateful!

  • David Weber

    My token wisecrack is: Dude, you are closer to social security than you are to “middle age”!

    More serious comment: I think that it is normal for intelligent, engaged contributors to society to gut-check themselves every few years. I have been supremely satisfied with my job and contributions to the lives of others … until fall 2013, when I began doing some reflecting much as you are describing. I think that the matter to contend with is NOT does/should/ought/must one perform this kind of existential reflection, but rather, does one see the reflection process itself as part of the contribution process? I think of the reflection as a sort of challenge to one’s self to do what I call “play a bigger game.”

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thanks David for THAT reminder – like I didn’t know. I do agree that this sort of reflection is good and necessary…