"Mid way upon the journey of our life I found
Myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost."
-Dante Alighieri, 'Divine Comedy'
Something happened on the way to my mid-life crisis. On a visit to the Psychology section of my favourite bookseller recently I came across a book that made me wonder...am I experiencing a mid-life crisis after all? Is there really such a thing? The authors of "50 Great Myths Of Popular Psychology" don't think so. Their argument is that people re-evaluate goals, priorities and experience crises in every decade of their lives. (Hell, just look at what teens go through).
For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, a mid-life crisis has been described as a period of dramatic self-doubt felt by some people in the "middle years" of their life, as a result of sensing the passing of
their own youth and impending old age. Sometimes a crisis can be triggered by transitions experienced in these years, such as menopause or andropause (male menopause), the death of parents or other causes of grief, unemployment, realizing you hate your job or career but not knowing how to earn an equivalent living, or children leaving home. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in your day-to-day life or
situations, such as in career, work/life balance, marriage/ romantic relationships, expensive purchases, or changes to physical appearance.
A large study in the nineties found that the average age of onset for self-described mid-life crisis was forty-six. I was forty-three when I began feeling this way, which was also after my car accident. So is this just a
coincidence? If I hadn't had the accident would I still have felt the unrest that I did, and to an extent that I still do? Is this really a mid-life crisis? I decided to look at it more closely...
People experiencing a mid-life crisis can have some of the following feelings:
Search of an undefined dream or goal
In a sense I feel this very strongly. After I recovered from the accident, and even more so last year, I felt there was something missing in my life. I found that the void was filled through helping others, listening to their problems and giving my input when they asked for it. And it does more to heal me mentally than I think anything else I could possibly do. The "undefined dream or goal" part comes in because I'm not sure where to go with this. I've been studying Psychology for personal interest, to better understand others (and in the end myself, I guess). But is it supposed to be something I do for self-improvement, or is it part of a bigger plan of which I'm not yet aware?)
A deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished
Not really. I've never been a career-driven person. In grade school and into high school I wanted to be an oceanographer, (until I realized I sucked at Physics, Chemistry and fared little better in Biology). My real love was English Literature, which has little place in the Sciences. But I can hardly say I regret not getting into that field and I seriously doubt I have any repressed issues over it.
Desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness
I can't say I have a desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness, because I've always had it. I never left my twenties, ever. Never plan to. These days I feel a very strong connection to people in their twenties, it's not something I have to think about or make a conscious effort to feel like I somehow 'fit in'. It's just....I don't know how to explain it. I've met so many amazing people and I love sharing in that energy; the hope, the introspection and even the uncertainty. I relate far more to the angst of those in their twenties than the emotional baggage of those in their forties.
Need to spend more time alone or with certain peers
The need to spend more time with peers, no I'm not feeling that. Time alone? Definitely. There's always been that fundamental difference between men and women, in that men generally seem more content spending time on their own. I've always been very independent, I can find plenty to do in a day alone and I enjoy my own company. Where my writing's concerned it's a time of decompression to gather my thoughts and write posts like this, work on poetry or exchange often profound conversations by e-mail. I find spending my alone time this way incredibly beneficial to my mental and emotional well-being.
People experiencing a mid-life crisis exhibit some of these behaviors:
Abuse of alcohol
Never a concern, as I grew up with an alcoholic stepfather and saw the effects of substance abuse first-hand. I enjoy a drink here and there but getting wasted holds little appeal for me.
Acquisition of unusual or expensive items such as motorbikes, boats, clothing, sports cars, jewelry, gadgets, tattoos, piercings, etc.
Nope, although I've always loved sports cars and vow to still be driving something obnoxiously fast when I'm sixty-five. A Porsche 911 Twin Turbo would fit the bill nicely...
Definitely not (although admittedly the thought that I'll be sixty-five in twenty years depresses the shit out of me).
Blaming themselves for their failures
I can't think of anything in my life I'd call a failure. I've made some questionable financial decisions over the years but that's about the extent of it. Blame is a strong word, but I do believe we're all responsible for choices we make that have an impact on our lives. I've never been one to point fingers, but I also try not to beat myself up over things either.
Paying special attention to physical appearance such as covering baldness, wearing "younger" designer clothes etc.
I started losing my hair when I was about twenty-two, and by the time I was in my mid-twenties I was very self conscious about it. I did wear a hairpiece for a while, which actually looked very natural (and was very expensive). Now I'm more comfortable than ever with the way Iook.
As far as "younger" clothes, I own a couple wildly designed t-shirts that I save for larger dance concerts (Tiesto etc) but that's the extent of it. It's completely possible to dress your age and still look good.
Entering relationships with younger people (sexual, professional, parental, etc.)
This one's interesting. I've definitely gravitated towards a younger crowd, and made a lot of friends in their twenties. Burn me at the stake if you want to but I've developed a tremendous admiration for younger women. Fortunately Sandy's very tolerant. Either that or she's waiting for the right moment to kill me in my sleep as a precautionary measure.
Placing overimportance (and possibly a psychologically damaging amount) on their children to excel in areas such as sports, arts or academics
Since I don't have any kids that I know of I have to say no to this one.
So there it is, as it stands now. What I'm going through at this stage of my life I don't know. Call it what you will, I guess there's no great need to put a name to it. All I know is I'm happier today than I've ever been probably in my entire life with my relationship, my 'career', my friends and family.
Who can put a label on that?