Continuing to fire on all cylinders

How does an over fifty and still insatiably curious person continue to learn all the things he/she is expected and desires to? I am not operating at the capacity of a twenty-something anymore or with any limited scope. In fact, the older I get the more I find to explore and learn.

Being faced with our own mortality suddenly becomes a motivating factor in middle age. Now that I’m there, it makes sense. I start taking inventory of all that I still want to do and experience because I suddenly feel like I’m running out of time.

My career demands continuous learning and maintenance of knowledge in a very specialized industry that is regulatory in nature and in constant flux. In addition to maintaining regulatory proficiency, my position is very technical in nature, therefore maintaining knowledge and skills relating to forever advancing and new technologies is required at the same time.

I have special interests that have been tabled for many years because life took over and there simply wasn’t enough time or mental bandwidth to devote to them. These interests are suddenly taking priority and I feel a level of impatience when I think about the dwindling years I have left on this earth to learn and enjoy them.

Hobbies that were put on the back burner but include techniques still unlearned or mastered whirl around in my mind when I look at my “to-do” or “bucket” list.

New discoveries such as emerging and/or exciting technologies become a continuous stream of learning opportunities. Wanting to hone my writing skills and learn about the industry through various local and online groups becomes a source of information overload as well.

How is learning and accomplishing all of this possible?

Some days I just want to tell my mind to shut up and shut off. Instead, I often wake in the middle of the night with ideas and thoughts that I need or think I need to record in my phone or on a bedside notepad to make sure I don’t forget them. It all becomes overwhelming and difficult to prioritize.

Obviously, any learning related to my career until I retire is critical to my continued employment and relevance in the workplace. But what about those non-corporate America interests that I should be able to also enjoy and develop not only to increase my knowledge and do something I enjoy, but might materialize as an extra income stream?. At the end of every day, there simply aren’t enough brain cells or time left to immerse myself in everything on my list . . . and still get a good night’s sleep.

So how do others do it? I cannot be the only person with a mind exploding with thoughts and ideas and not finding the energy or time to devote to them. Do I write out a plan and schedule for all of my interests and associated required learning? What if I want to engage in several of them at the same time? It’s hard to prioritize — especially when some are so involved that I suspect the only time in my life I will have available to devote to them will be when I’m retired. I’ll be operating on even fewer cylinders then.

And just so no one gets confused. This isn’t a time management issue. I’m an empty nester and beyond my career demands and spending time with my grandkids, most of the rest of the time is mine to do with as I please. I just don’t have the mental energy — hence the title of this post — to pounce on all that I want to do.

Caffeine is not an option; it only exacerbates my bouts of insomnia. Over-the-counter supplements claiming to enhance or improve “mental energy” only leave me skeptical and less inclined to ingest even more crap into my body. Getting more sleep might be helpful, but even on days where I feel rested there aren’t enough hours. Maybe I need to exercise more patience and come to the realization that I can only do so much and that it’s merely impossible to tackle all that I want to, especially at one time. Such a conclusion only serves to paralyze me, though, and then I get nothing accomplished.

Yes, I’m a mess.

The feeling of being pulled in so many directions doesn’t even leave time to devote to personal relationships. It’s time I not let them suffer and be sacrificed because I have this insatiable desire to do so much. Cloning is not a viable option either — there can’t be two of me. Some might find comfort in that. 😉

So as I conclude this post, I’m no closer to finding a resolution than when I started it. If anything, it’s been a cathartic release — writing it all out and expressing this dilemma even exists.

Maybe in a future post, I will express that I’ve found a solution.