Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Welcome To My Mid-Life Crisis (part 3, in which I admit that I'm just having too good a time for it to be anything else)

"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 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?


  1. i liked this post! I'm having a quarter life crisis lol.
    I definitely never exceled in the sciences either and was always drawn toward English lit., history and French. I'm always been drawn to the arts (theater, dance, art). :) You definitely seem to relate to younger people well, but your writing seems wiser.

  2. Reading this solidifies my theory that I am having a quarter life crisis. I wonder how common that is. It sounds like you have things really under control and are enjoying life to the fullest :)

  3. My dear friend; In my humble opinion I think any life changing event bad or good - has an affect on us. This being said - I think its how one handles the aftermath of the situation. Then there is the whole universe of balance - ying and yang - to have happiness and truly appreciate it , one must experience sadness (this of course does not make it any easier - when you are in the midst of "crisis" as they call it -sadness, or bad).

    I'm with you on that Porche -my fav- maybe we can go together and score a good deal by getting them at the same time..:)

    Eva and Jill, 25 is a very interesting year (it was for me and alot of friends)- it is the year you are usually coming into your own, you may not have learned what you want in life - BUT you have certainly learned what you Don't want. Its the year you embark on your career and who you are and will be is starting to develop. Its the questioning year .. Enjoy this time - live life to the fullest, resist the urge to "have it all", you are usually just starting out and money is finally coming in. There will be plenty of time to spend in your 30's and 40's on things that you "want" vs need.
    Cheers, HHL

  4. Who can put a label on it? I an! it's called L I F E !! And do you know, I identify uncannily with so many of your self-assessments.

    ...and I am age 77. But right down the line, I am WITH you on SO many things. You will get over being depressed about being one day 65, when you realize 30 years MORE can whip by and you STILL realize you have not left your 20's... mentally, that is. And yesss...also somewhat physically--grin!

  5. I think everyone goes through this every few years . . . supposedly I'm going through a "quarter-life crisis." Personally, I think its BS - I'm really just disillusioned with what adulthood* really is - reality is so not like what T.V. told me it would be like ;). I say, we all buy an island in the Carribbean and move there, live in a commune, and eat coconuts.

    *I would have called it the "American Dream" but you're in Canada, so that term really doesn't work for you.

  6. I just posted your letter to 20 somethings :) as promised.

  7. I just "discovered" your blog through Jill's actually. After reading your guest post on her blog, I just had to stop by and soak in more of your wisdom.

    The void. The void is something I can definitely relate to. And maybe it's because I just ended a 9-yr relationship, but I honestly think it's more than that. Anyway, I'm just glad that I'm not the only one who is searching for something...undefined. (God, how do you deal with us 20-somethings? We're so conceited thinking we're the only ones to have ever experienced this crap. Lol)

  8. Is it possible I feel all this at 22? :( lol

  9. Everyone, I'm too short on time to comment individually. But thanks for your words. I'm desperately trying to get around to visiting more!

  10. I can totally relate to this. I'm not sure about owning the expensive car thing, although I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy a 2010 Mustang convert or a Camaro. But a lot of things here match up:
    Search of an undefined dream or goal-Yes
    A deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished - Yes
    Desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness - Yes
    Need to spend more time alone or with certain peers - Yes. Sort of ties in with the youthfulness desire.
    Abuse of alcohol - Thankfully, NO
    Acquisition of unusual or expensive items - No. Mainly 'cause I can't afford anything ;)
    Depression - Definitely YES
    Blaming themselves for their failures - Yes. Although having 3 kids is not a life failure.
    Paying special attention to physical appearance - To a degree, but that was from getting out of a previous relationship into the dating game again.
    Entering relationships with younger people - No. Although my partner is younger than me, I met her before my "crisis" started happening.
    Placing overimportance (and possibly a psychologically damaging amount) on their children to excel in areas such as sports, arts or academics - Another big Yes. I don't want my kids to end up like their old man.
    I'm not really sure what to do about it either. I love my family and friends, but I still feel that "need" to figure out what I'm here for and what I'm supposed to contribute to make the world and my life a better place. I've been feeling this way for at least 3 years.