Shifting gears, I have a story. Maybe more of a mission. But first the story.
The other day, I was catching up with a friend. He asked what I’d been up to lately, and I started to tick off my list of ventures: I started my own one-woman consulting firm, wrote two novels, and am in the middle of a yoga teacher training program.
“Oh, right,” he said. “Yoga teacher training. That’s like a respectable midlife crisis for professional women these days.”
I laughed, but then I started to think about his words. I guess when you look at it on paper, my life the last year does contain the classic symptoms of a midlife crisis. But I’ve been so happy, fulfilled and mostly grounded; I haven’t for one minute felt any sense of crisis. (Except the fives days between finding out my COBRA coverage had been terminated and when it was reinstated. But that was more emergency than crisis.)
Hours after this coffee-yoga-midlife conversation, I started to wonder: why do we call a change in the direction of one’s life a crisis? I made a mental list of the actions I have been guilty of attributing to midlife angst and honestly, I think we have it all wrong. The man who buys a high performance sports car? Maybe he’s been driving a grocery getter for twenty years, a vehicle that fit his three kids plus all their requisite accoutrements. And now he has not only the freedom to buy a smaller car, but the income. Changing jobs? Why not explore a profession that ignites your passion instead of sticking doggedly to the one you chose in your (perhaps) misguided youth? Getting in shape? Seems like a pragmatic thing to do as one ages and the body needs more attention. Divorce? Okay, it’s sad when a couple breaks up, but maybe the marriage had been eroding for years. Maybe the couple was waiting for their children to finish college. Maybe they fell out of love.
What I’m trying to say is that while in some cases, midlife can be scary and compel people to make bold moves, in a number of instances, the crisis is an exploration of one’s untapped talent or long-held dreams. The crisis is a realization you were meant for something else. The crisis is grounded in the wisdom of age and experience. Perhaps it’s a crisis because those on the outside are uncomfortable with change. Or they wish they had the guts to do the same.
Whatever the case, I propose the midlife crisis needs a rebrand. Maybe we call it a midlife awakening or midlife exploration. In fact, screw the “midlife” modifier all together. None of us knows how long we’ll live, thus it’s impossible to designate a midlife point accurately anyway.
Yes, I started a consulting firm, wrote two novels and am on a journey toward becoming a yoga teacher. These actions reflect who I am inside and out. If I add a convertible or a young boyfriend to the mix, don’t whisper about my crises but celebrate my ability to navigate life so that I’m on the right path for me in the present moment. And I will do the same for you, no matter the make and model of car you purchase.