I recently bought a high-powered sports car. It has an engine the size of a 747 and can go from zero to 100 in about one second. I tell people I wanted something that was sexy and racy with a hint of sophistication much like my own personality. This usually elicits those sad looks reserved for balding old men who fancy themselves as chick-magnets. This purchase was a spontaneous act, not in keeping with my down-to-earth, reserved and supposedly practical image. I even tried balancing a pair of dark designer sunglasses on top of my head like those really cool guys. Unfortunately I discovered that tri-focal sunglasses are extra heavy and keep falling into my lap. Did I mention the wicked Bose stereo system in the dashboard that can rattle the windows of houses three blocks away? My wife and grown children are still shaking their heads.
I’ve only had my vehicle for a few weeks but have already overheard several people mumble the words “midlife crisis” under their breath. That couldn’t be me, not really. I’m just trying to have a little fun during my long daily commute to and from work. It’s not like I traded my wife in for a younger model, bought a luxury yacht, chucked my career, and headed off into the sunset. Or is it?
Although the experts disagree on whether a midlife crisis actually exists there appears to be a time in our lives when we sense the passing of youth and the rapid advancement of old age. We begin to measure our age, not in years spent, but in years remaining. It’s a time when we reflect back on our goals and accomplishments, if any, and take special note of our bad decisions and wasted opportunities. Did I really make my work a higher priority than my wife and kids and did I make money and status the holy grail of my existence? Did I allow my health to suffer at the same time by ignoring stress, good eating habits, and proper exercise? And that period of years between 40 and 60 is often when long-term marriages begin to deteriorate. Some even turn to alcohol or other drugs in a misguided attempt to relieve their painful realizations.
Many feel a need for adventure and change. I have friends in the over 50 crowd who have either retired early or work part-time. Some have taken on major challenges like walking across England from sea to sea, peddling their bikes on long journeys, building a log cabin, travelling around the world, and writing a book. Some simply savour the joy of babysitting their grandkids, volunteering at the Red Cross, or turning their backyard into the garden of their dreams.
The journey from youth to middle age and on into old age may seem frightening and discouraging but you can also choose to see it as an opportunity to re-evaluate and perhaps change the direction of your life. Rather than believing that aging is simply about having to give things up, try to think about what you’d like to start. When you reach 60 you could still be only two-thirds of the way through your life. That leaves a great deal of time to broaden your interests, travel, take courses, learn new skills, and take up new hobbies and sports. Or why not embark on some new challenging adventure? There is still a whole world of opportunity around us. Do what your health and interests allow so that in another few years you aren’t looking back with even greater discouragement.
Those struggling with their current stage of life may want to consider contacting a counsellor or a lifestyle coach. Don’t waste your time in regret. You may not be interested in buying a flashy new car but … VROOM VROOM … it works for me.