Many of us have had our head down, focused and working hard, through our 30’s and into our 40’s, when midlife seems to sneak up on us out of nowhere. Suddenly we are not just out of college. We are not “the young people.” We are actual grown ups, perhaps midcareer, perhaps parents, perhaps even caring for our own parents. We are the decision makers. We have a lot of responsibility, some wisdom, and some real effectiveness.
Sometimes midlife also brings a feeling of angst and a questioning of our lives. Different people associate midlife with a different age—a 40th birthday, the 40’s in general, and others with 50. I connect midlife with the time when we have exhausted the path that we set upon in our 20's. In the, sometimes, tumultuous times that were our teens and 20's, we asked ourselves questions about our identity and values. By some point in our 20's, many of us set life goals based on our identity, values, family structure, knowledge, and economic conditions of the time. We worked hard on those goals through our 30's and 40's. And by some point in our midlife, we accomplished many of those goals while other goals fell to the wayside or became irrelevant.
We also might become aware of health and aging. Our bodies ache a little, or a lot. Bodies and minds lay down limits. We can’t stay up as late as we used to. We might not adapt as quickly as we once did. Some of us have real health scares. Heart disease and cancer often rear their ugly heads in the 40’s. We are in the circle of life—sandwiched between aging parents and young children. And, we now live in a world where there exist adults who were born after we became adults ourselves.
That's where the midlife crisis comes into play. We choose, or are forced into, some kind of redo of our teens/20's and we question basic ideas again. I say, embrace it! It’s a wonderful opportunity to get our lives up to date and relevant. Throw out (or donate) the old clothes that don’t fit, the old values that don’t make sense, the old habits that aren’t working. Hone in on the things you love and make you look and feel great, the traditions that warm your heart, and the skills that make you real money. Rework or pull in new items, ideas, and practices that make sense for you and your family in the current world.
You might need to try on a few different ideas, clothes, and identities to see how they fit you. Just as in our teens, we might end up with a bad hairstyle and a few cringe worthy photos, but we’ll hopefully also emerge from mid life with some incredible identity-defining experiences, close friends, and a set of goals and values for the next phase of our lives.