Philip Roth’s new book, ‘Everyman‘ is a poignant portrayal of an average Joe who, having just died, reflects on his life. We learn about ‘Joe’ from his own first-hand accounts, as well as those of his older brother, his daughter and his two sons. Then, there are the ex-wives and their tales.
Joe, you see, wanted to be a serious artist. But, the times were tough and instead, he settled on becoming a creative director at a New York ad agency.
While it paid the bills, the job left Joe unfulfilled. He worshipped an older brother who was more gifted athletically and wound up making millions on Wall Street. He walked out on his first wife, alienating his two sons. He cheated on his second wife, and never saw her again. Joe’s only meaningful relationship was with his daughter, Nancy, a single mom who was too busy raising her own kids to pay much attention to Joe.
And, so, we see an increasingly depressed Joe’s health gradually decline and with it, his hopes of ever finding the right woman, becoming an accomplished painter or becoming close again to his estranged family.
It’s a tale of ‘what if’?
Joe’s lifetime full of regrets got me thinking about my own situation.
I’ve made some mistakes along the way and might have chosen different paths if given a second chance. But, I’m quite content, am looking ahead, and rather than reflecting on ‘what if’s,’ I’m compiling a list of ‘why not’s’?
I’ve performed stand-up comedy. I just performed with an improv group. And, along with Chris Repman, Jr. Cody, I just climbed 6,000-foot Mt. Mansfield in Vermont. Short-term future goals include:
– becoming an accomplished swimmer
– climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
– playing a musical instrument
– writing more books
The beautiful thing about mid-life is that it not only provides an opportunity to take stock and evaluate what hasn’t been accomplished but, more importantly, to chart a course for what lies ahead.
Unlike Roth’s ‘Joe,’ my overarching goal is simple: to be able to someday look back and not once think, ‘what if?’