Mid-life crisis, it used to be the excuse for juvenile behavior used by men old enough to know better. It was a punch line, a joke, a cliché, a male bastion.
Scientists have now discovered that our ancestors, the primates, also go through a mid-life crisis. The conclusion? It’s a real biological event. The logical conclusion? We all experience it. It’s not limited to the male gender.
The mid-life crisis should be taken seriously. Think about it. We spend our youth figuring things out, deciding who we are, what we want to be, what goals we want to achieve and what mark we will make. It’s a heady time when we are self-focused. If not for that single minded, admittedly self-centered, absorption we don’t mature from childhood into adulthood. Through that examination, we gain an understanding of ourselves, our aims.
Regrettably, most of us spend our post high school/college adulthood ignoring everything we decided earlier as we strive to survive in “the real world”. If we’re lucky, if we do more than survive, we enter a time when we have “made it.” As a successful adult do all the things expected of us. We start a family, buy a home, take on responsibilities, assume debt and put others before ourselves – especially if you’re a mom. For all intents and purposes, we lead an unexamined life.
But all that early self-reflection is still there, buried in our psyche.
The fact that we have stopped asking ourselves the important questions, may have even forgotten what those questions were, doesn’t mean they are not percolating in our sub-conscious.
When the mid-life biology kicks in those thoughts rise to the surface. You start wondering – “is this all there is?” You look around at everything you’ve accumulated and what once filled you with a sense of accomplishment feels like too much “stuff” that just bogs you down.
There is an upside to the age triggered time-bomb. If you’re fortunate enough to be living a life that makes you happy, the mid-point examination is not a crisis but a confirmation. It’s a chance to congratulate yourself on a job well done. It’s as valuable to authenticate and celebrate the elements of your life – job, spouse, goals – that are fulfilling as it is to realize they are no longer valid.
Similarly, coming to terms with what is unsatisfying is beneficial. It can motivate you to improve your situation or at least confront it. If it is not possible to ameliorate the negative, isn’t it better to accept that and move on? Yes, there may be some pain, but I see it as growing pains. It is a constructive compulsion to turn inward and evaluate our condition – as we did in the earlier transition from child to adult.
We are advised to look at our financial portfolio once a year, what about our life portfolio? Doesn’t that deserve as much attention?
I think we should have a crisis every decade if not every year. How many lives could be improved by stopping, taking stock, seeing where our time and energy has been invested and if we’re happy with the return we’re getting on those investments?
Perhaps the recent changes in my life are a result of my mid-life evaluation. That doesn’t invalidate them. On the contrary, it makes them more logical and perhaps inevitable. At least I didn’t have an affair or buy an overpriced sports car, well, not yet.