Headshot of Michael Antonelli with an abstract image of the earth in the background.

Today is Never Too Late to be Brand New

I recently heard that quote and fell in love with it. Who uttered this magnificent statement? Taylor Swift. 

Right now you might be saying to yourself, “enough Taylor Swift Antonelli, can you please start talking about Yacht Rock again?”

Allow me to tell you the story of my mid-life crisis.

I’m 49. I turn 50 in a few months. Time, my friends, is pushing hard at my back.

Earlier this year I took a trip to Austin TX to attend South by Southwest. We have a team there and I was going to speak to their clients about investing and the world. I was excited to go, SXSW is a cool festival in a great city.

As I stood in the lobby of my hotel, I looked around at all the younger, better dressed, more in shape attendees and thought to myself “Michael, you’re an absolute mess, what is wrong with you? You’re standing here in Dad pants, a golf shirt, lugging 230 lbs around the world like you’re made of cheese and failed dreams.”

My brain completely broke, my self-image shattered, I got on a scooter and bought new clothes at LULU. As my trip ended, I left Michael version 1.0 in Austin never to be heard from again. I returned to Wisconsin determined to be brand new.  

I rode my Peloton for hours a day, I walked nonstop, my wife said I needed to go see a doctor, but here I sit at 195 lbs, better than before. The mirror doesn’t mock me anymore.

I am convinced of the following: If you want to make meaningful changes you must bury your past self. You need a superhero origin story; you need to experience the pain of a specific event to finally grow into a better version.

I mentioned the story of my mid-life crisis, I guess weight is just part of it.

As I stare at my 50th birthday I have two children who are on the verge of leaving. I’ll ship one off next year, the other one in a few years. Our nest empties.

I have 16 years of work at the best place I’ve ever known, a little firm in Milwaukee named Baird. Am I on the back half of my career? I guess I am. Did I make a difference? Do my teammates like me and do my leaders value my efforts? Will I leave this firm a better place than when I arrived? Questions that swirl around my head.

“I was never a Senator, I have bills, work is stressful, relationships are hard.”  They say happiness bottoms in your late 40s then starts to rise as you come to grips with the canvas that you’ve painted.

Here is a well-known chart of what that looks like:

The U-bend chart, self-reported well-being on a scale of 1-10 by age

I’m standing at the bottom now, brush in hand, paint dripping on the floor. Have I done enough? Have I wasted my potential? Do the people I love cherish me for who I am?

I guess pouring this into a blog is better than buying a Porsche or growing my hair out and becoming a Phish fan. Antonelli’s Mid-life Crisis: Brought to you by Microsoft Word.

Maybe happiness starts to rise after your 40s because you look back and realize it's not money or cars or a prestigious title at work that matters, it’s the people you surround yourself with and the adventures you go on.

“Today is never too late to be brand new.” I think about that a lot. 

Whether we like it or not, life is about change. You might be on the verge of graduating high school, you may have just gotten married, you may have just turned 40, you may have just retired.

In the end, we are always making ourselves brand new, aren’t we?

To let go of the old you and embrace the new one is loving yourself to the fullest.

I can’t change my past, it shaped me into who I am today, and I’m grateful for it. I left Michael in Texas, but that Michael got me to Texas and I should’ve thanked him, I should’ve given him a warm hug goodbye.

“Hold onto the memories they will hold on to you.” Again, a lyric from Taylor I think about a lot.

Tomorrow is promised to no one, mid-life crisis or not I need to embrace the Michael that will get me to the final stages of my life.

Great adventures lie ahead….bring me that horizon.