There is more than one way to skin a cat, so they say, and there is more than one way to cause a man to take a long hard look at his life, measure his worth, search his shallow soul, and entertain thoughts of mortality, destiny, and whether his life has been worth spit.
One way, as you might have guessed, is to turn 40. "About 60 years left" sez the Bro. I estimate, based largely on what I eat and the exercise I don't do, I'm good for half that. 30 more years puts me at 70, probably the upper limit of this mortal coil. So I'm on the back side, heading downhill -- slowly at this point, no real momentum, but there is no way to go backwards to that half-way peak. I'm ok with that. What's more fun, waiting in line for 45 minutes behind 80 wet and screaming kids and a fat guy with a hairy sunburned back, or the wild exciting rush of the water slide?
Another way to get a man's attention is through the miracle of Fatherhood; a new dad is made quite aware of his place in the cosmos, how insignificant he is when it comes to the wants and needs of his children and their mother. The blessed event often leads a man to poetry, exalting the beauty and joy of his baby's toes, or to letters, a volume on his new-found maturity and the responsibility of ensuring his wit and wisdom is passed to future generations of his seed. Of course this birth-inspired literary bent is quickly stamped out by the reality of diapers, teletubbies, sibling rivalry, and six billion legos sprinkled like grass seeds throughout the house.
Litigation, jail time, jury duty, any intrusion by the legal system into a man's life. Combat, medical emergencies, divorce. The realization your son is now the better athlete, as your best fastball clears the fence or your fadeaway jumper is smacked back into the gardenias. The loss of a parent. Hair loss. Traumatic events in a man's life lead to introspection, to the search for explanations, a sense of reason and significance in the universe.
Not having a job, a career, a calling. Not collecting a paycheck. Resumes, applications, interviews. Peel a man to his core, expose his deepest fears and weaknesses. Underqualified, overqualified, not what we're looking for, nothing available at this time. We'll get back to you.
I will be out of work in 15 days. Fifteen days not including weekends, so three weeks left as a man bringing home the bacon. Fifteen more days of work until I am out of work, off the payroll, unable to come in pick up a paycheck. All those jokes about not coming back when someone goes on vacation? I'm not coming back after my vacation. Call in on Sunday to check my schedule? I'm not on the schedule.