– Hey: But what do you mean by Midlife crisis?
Let’s start easy. Wikipedia says: “A midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals, brought about by events that highlight a person’s growing age, inevitable mortality, and possibly lack of accomplishments in life”
What a genius it was who gave it this name: Mid Life crisis. Assuming we live to be 80 years old, then it would be at around 40. Although 500 years ago people barely reached the age of 40, already senile with a couple of children in tow, harvested for 30 years, fought in a couple of wars, and ready to fiddle. But of course, today we live almost 100 years, so when our brains reach what was once the twilight, we ask ourselves: And that was it? Now what? What next? Like when you kindly accept to go to a lunch and after dessert the host proposes that we stay until dinner included. How we deal with all this unplanned time?
This is the famous “offside” in football terms: the moment where you keep running and someone (maybe your own life?) is holding up the flag saying: “Hey, where are you going, my friend?” It is then that, amidst the murmur of the stadium, you stop your inertia with a confused face, and look to the sidelines for an explanation.
For non-footballers, here’s another situation. So many years trying to prove your merits and progress at school, at university, at work, in bars looking for some “How well you’ve done” and suddenly you reach an age where you have the position of a rooster with a puffed-out chest, continuing to crow as before until you realize that not even your partner is looking at you.
Not even your friends nor your children. You crow one more time and nothing. That moment is the click: Midlife crisis is here.
– But now you are going to tell me that this crisis comes with symptoms?
Well, let’s see. Now that I’ve finally graduated as an adult, like my entourage, I’m sharing here some of the recurring themes with my friends: Suddenly you realize you’re going to work at the same thing for another 20 years. Or you tell your friends that from now on you are an investor as you have spent two nights with tutorials (and on top of that you have the courage to invest). Or you take a picture of a yoga flyer to eventually call tomorrow. A friend googles “hair implant”. Another would love to quit the job to open a brewery. Suddenly you start to think that you are not going to survive on a daily hamburger beer, and you start buying organic products. Should I buy a Moto or at least increase the power noise of my car? And that’s when one afternoon you convince yourself that at this age you can afford to spend that money while you are getting a third tattoo. Indeed: Symptoms are expensive. Some people can’t even afford their midlife crisis costs until age 65.
– But why the hell does the crisis show up?
It is true. In fact, it comes when we are in the peak period of performance with the right balance of energy and +18 years of work experience. Well, that sounded too optimistic: we sleep less. We don’t get invited to weddings parties anymore. We miss eye contact on the streets. An extra beer on a Thursday and the Friday is almost impossible. The feeling that we have just passed the crest of the wave and life was not as eternal as we thought. Or that the activities are not fulfilling at all. Added to the new grey hair, a few extra kilos, and thinking that a tennis second set is not wise. The strange feeling of not getting to that fancy 3-word position role or neglecting the career or the family. Maybe not rich enough? Not travelled enough? Until the crisis appears. Blessed crisis.
– Wait Ignacio… Now you’re going to tell me that this crisis is like an encrypted blessed message?
Legend says that once, a city suffered a big flood where all the citizens were evacuated. One man refused to leave the city: “God will save me,” he told the firemen. The water kept rising and a rescue boat was begging him to get in. “God will save me,” the man repeated from a rooftop. When the water level reached his head, a helicopter flew by to save him. “God will save me,” he said seconds before he died. In heaven he was received by St. Peter and the indignant man asked to speak to God: “Why did you abandon me in the middle of the flood? God replied to him: “Well, my son: I sent you firemen, boats and even a helicopter and you refused to let me save you.”
At the right time, life shows us, at least me, you that the path we are on is not (anymore) the right one. Perhaps it served a long time ago. Maybe it helped others. But how are we going to realize if we always thought like that? That’s when life somehow puts us to the test: Boredom, emptiness, nuisance, row, resentment, resignation, envy, Lack of energy, deficit of enthusiasm. And believe me that the universe is stubborn and until we learn the lesson it will appear in different ways, just like an insurance salesman. It will always be on the lookout to, ultimately, feed you until a change.
– It seems to me that you are going to convince me of this crisis.
Well. Until a few years ago, I thought it was what adults talked about to explain the lives they (don’t) lead. An invention of the press and self-help books. A creation as fanciful as Eden.
Those who are on the right path, why derail? Let them keep going that way. But those who are on the wrong bus, then at some point the crisis comes. And there, there are two options. Either you play dumb and get on with your life, like our legendary drowned man. Or you surrender and join the crisis. The first one is the easiest, although you might later start putting piercings in your eyebrows at 65. Let’s call it the Blue Pill. The second one requires more courage and even a willingness to look at your dark areas: The famous Red Pill.
But this call also came to me (to us, my dear Ignacio) some time ago. The crisis called into question my beliefs, my activities and mainly my priorities. Where and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. From radically changing my profession and breaking up with toxic people, to avoiding criticism in front of the coffee machine and changing my habits. Not an easy transition. But looking back, I can see why every single change I made. I sought the support of a coach to help me on this journey. All changing and growing period has a pain cost side effect associated. The coach helped me to be clear about what I wanted, to define what was non-negotiable, to prioritise and above all not to give up in the middle of the crisis.
So, the question would be: Are you on the right road? Are you climbing the right ladder? Are you having the time of your life day after day? If the answer is no, it might be the time you started telling yourself the truth. In Japanese, the word crisis and opportunity are the same. Let us not waste the unique opportunity of the crisis.
Confucius said it better than anyone: “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”
– I think you are quoting Confucius to make this text seem intellectual. I know you.
You’re totally right. And while we’re at it, here’s an extract from Einstein’s book “The World as I See It”, that my dad printed and framed for me about 6 years ago. Enjoy it.
“Let’s not pretend that things will change if we keep doing the same things. A crisis can be a real blessing to any person, to any nation. For all crises bring progress. Creativity is born from anguish, just like the day is born form the dark night. It’s in crisis that inventiveness is born, as well as discoveries made and big strategies. He who overcomes crisis, overcomes himself, without getting overcome.
He who blames his failure to a crisis neglects his own talent and is more interested in problems than in solutions. Incompetence is the true crisis. The greatest inconvenience of people and nations is the laziness with which they attempt to find the solutions to their problems. There’s no challenge without a crisis. Without challenges, life becomes a routine, a slow agony. There’s no merit without crisis. It’s in the crisis where we can show the very best in us. Without a crisis, any wind becomes a tender touch. To speak about a crisis is to promote it. Not to speak about it is to exalt conformism. Let us work hard instead. Let us stop, once and for all, the menacing crisis that represents the tragedy of not being willing to overcome it.”
I am Ignacio Ravena. Engineer in the past and currently life and transition coach. I’ve decided that every now and then I’ll take advantage of a Monday morning to have coffee and write up to 1,500 words on any topic that interests me or that I have experienced. 2 hours of writing to be read in 5 minutes. Voilà. I apologize for my English, typos, and the hasty typing in the cafe. If you want to know more about me: www.theBproject.ch. If you want to read other related articles, click here