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My five step plan for coping with a mid-life crisis (image: Pixabay) My five step plan for coping with a mid-life crisis (image: Pixabay)

Life

My five step plan for coping with a mid-life crisis

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Sometimes it can feel difficult to make your voice heard, to have an impact, to feel like you’re making a difference to the people and the world around you.

You can feel lost, overwhelmed and a little powerless as the millions of people around you busily go about their daily lives, politicians bluster about things that seem important but remote, and the media constantly reminds us how bleak the outlook for everything is.

I was recently on a flight from Melbourne to Auckland, watching the movie Step Up 4 (surprisingly good), and in a small but powerful cameo, contemporary dance choreographer Mia Michaels said to one of the main characters:

‘Emily you are being blown like a leaf around this dance studio — take control.’

Wise words, and it is important to try and take some control of some of the key pillars of your life — it may not be possible to control everything, but even the process of beginning to take control of those things that you can will be an empowering first step.

This is what I’m telling myself anyway.

Turning 40 was a time of real change for me — I was single for the first time in many years, and I took a voluntary redundancy from a company where I’d worked for ten years. None of those were necessarily negative developments in my life, but it definitely felt as if some of the major things that used to be stable and constant were now no longer quite so certain.

I’m now approaching my 45th birthday, and if anything I’m feeling less certain about everything, but also somehow less worried about what happens next. However there’s some days when I do feel like a leaf, being blown around a dance studio.

Here’s the five step plan that I’m following to try to help me cope with those days when it’s tempting to succumb to a mid-life crisis. I’m making no assurances that it will be right for anyone else, but take from it what you will.

Step 1: Work

My career path has never been particularly defined, but right now the direction that I’m heading in is to specialise in digital publishing and marketing. I’ve taught myself about analytics, programmatic advertising, changing audience trends, emerging technologies, and the evolving distribution landscape. I’m not earning a fortune, but I’m enjoying the work. I like working in a field that is changing so rapidly that there’s not really any experts – everyone is muddling through with trial and error, and every day is a school day.

Step 2: Relationship

When I was younger I struggled a bit with what a successful gay relationship would look like — if I’m honest, I’m probably still struggling with that. It’s hard to escape that background concern about what happens as you get older — the fear of growing old alone.

I’m living with my boyfriend Liviu. I first met him in 2012, but it’s only since I’ve been back in London from the start of 2015 that things got serious.

I’m no expert on relationships, but I think that feeling a bit more self-content is making being in a relationship a bit easier. Things are going well.

I have a number of friends who are single, and to some extent I live vicariously through their dating adventures and escapades. The genius of location-based dating apps is that it seems easier than ever before to meet guys — guys that want to have sex. Inevitably there will be good dates and bad dates — some guys you really like but they never call you again; some guys that you have a few dates and a bit of fun with; and some guys that you never want to see again. The good thing about dating (apart from getting some regular sex) is that it does make you realise that there are plenty of guys out there — finding a boyfriend isn’t actually that difficult. Finding the right boyfriend though continues to be a numbers game.

Step 3: Health

I’ve really fallen off the regime in terms of my health, and it’s probably the key pillar that I need to prioritise and focus on. When I turned 40 I was probably the healthiest I’ve ever been — I spent a lot of time at the gym, I had a personal trainer, I was eating right, and looking good.

However the uncertainty around my work, and the financial fragility that seems to bring with it, means that I’ve been finding lots of excuses to avoid exercise, drink too much, and make poor food choices.

So, here we are, five years later and I’m probably the unhealthiest that I have ever been. That needs to change.

Step 4: Family

My family are a bit spread out, so contact can be a bit sporadic. I recently spent five days with my parents who live in the town of Echuca in South Eastern Australia.

My mother is concerned that none of her children live close enough to visit regularly (my younger brother is the closest — three hours away in Melbourne; my sister is in Perth — a four hour flight; and I’m in London — the other side of the world).

I tried to explain that this was actually a credit to them both as parents — that they’d given us the confidence and sense of empowerment to make our own way in the world, secure that we had the love and support of our parents.

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My mother didn’t see it like that.

‘I want you home for Sunday lunch — not half-way around the world!’ she declared.

Step 5: Community

Possibly the most intangible of the pillars of your life, ‘community’ is important in the sense that you need to feel some sense of engagement or connection with the world around you.

That doesn’t necessarily mean saying ‘good morning’ to all of your neighbours, or volunteering at the local cat shelter, but it’s important to find something that’s meaningful for you — that you can commit to, invest in, and feel part of.

I went through a phase of being a bit obsessed with gay sports. It started with a tentative attempt to play water polo with London’s gay water polo team. I quickly realised that I’m not much good at water polo but I loved being part of a team, hanging out with people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met, feeling a real sense of camaraderie.

‘Emily you are being blown like a leaf around this dance studio — take control.’

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Arts & Culture

Giving a voice to gay Arab men

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Samer Bo (image supplied)
Samer Bo (image supplied)

I caught up with author Samer Bo to talk about writing erotic gay fiction in Egypt.

What led you to start writing erotic gay fiction?

I was forgetting what was happening. I noticed that when someone asked me about what happened to me the previous week, I couldn’t remember the details.

I think forgetting was my defence-mechanism for all the pain and trouble.

So, I started by writing my diaries, which ended to be quite erotic sometimes. Then that moved to erotic fiction.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your stories?

Inspiration comes from my personal experiences and sometimes my friends’ experiences. Other times, I just meet a guy or watch a movie, and it inspires me to write a story.

Who are your target audience?

I write for myself before anyone else. I’d love all gay men to read and get aroused by my stories.

But I guess I do write for minorities — people who don’t usually get represented in media, porn, or erotic stories. I want people to see themselves represented in my novels.

What sort of feedback do you get from your readers?

I get a lot of positive feedback from people in the Middle East who finally find a voice speaking to them. Some see me as a role model — a type of Egyptian guy that they never see in the media.

Do your friends and family know that you write erotic gay fiction?

Only some close friends know. I’m not in touch with my family anyway. Samer is my real name, but I changed my last name to Bo.

Have you had any negative reactions to the gay erotic fiction that you write?

I only tell people about my writing if I know that they’re either gay or gay friendly. So I haven’t had negative reactions in that respect.

However, I have had multiple incidents of homophobia. I was arrested once.

Son of the President isn’t an erotic story, how did that story come to you?

That story is based on the real-life story of an older friend that I met a few years ago. I told him about my erotic stories, and he asked me to write an erotic story inspired by his experiences.

However, I felt that if I wrote it as erotica, it would take away from the essence of the story. So I left it as non-erotic story.

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What do you hope that people feel when reading your stories?

First of all, aroused from my erotic stories. Plus, I want people to feel represented.

Gay Arabs are not represented in any kind of media. We’re being suppressed and discriminated against. A lot of gay men in the Middle East feel that being gay is wrong, and that homosexuality is a sin.

This is my small way to help those men feel better about themselves.

What are some of your goals and ambitions for the remainder of 2018?

More stories, maybe some non-erotic ones. I’m also helping a friend of mine to change his non-erotic short story into a play.

Read the novels by Samer Bo

Follow Samer Bo on Twitter

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