I am the oldest child and have all the type A characteristics that come with it. Oddly though, my birthday is late in the year, which made me the youngest among many of my friends growing up. I was four when I started kindergarten and only 17 when I stepped foot on my college campus. It presented a dichotomy, oldest at home but youngest in day to day life. I’ve thought about the contrast lately as I’m mentally turning a corner. Still the oldest child, no longer the youngest of my peers, and in the middle of my life.
People talk about midlife with a negative slant. But I’d disagree. For me, it’s a time of change. Paraphrasing Brené Brown… Midlife, it’s when the Universe shakes us and says ‘stop messing around, use the gifts I gave you. If you’ve read Brené you know she would have said that saltier than I do, for good reason, emphasizing that many of us have walked along beside our life to this point. We’ve let it happen to us, and in our early 50’s (plus or minus) it’s as though we wake up.
I know I have. It wasn’t at 50, more like the late 40’s. My question was ‘how do I want to play this out?’ I entered a career by default out of college and stayed it in. Changed employers a few times, but never changed my field. But I started to feel there was so much more. Gifts that I had which were lying on a shelf, dusty. A slant towards connection, creativity, writing…passions that I’d pushed aside for responsibility. Safe, secure, staying the course that others had laid out for me…until I started to question it.
I can see why it’s called a midlife ‘crisis.’ When you take your life and throw it up in the air to see what sticks, yeah, that can look like a crisis. Your body starts to act out…aches, arthritis (it’s no joke), hot flashes, fatigue. What…the…heck?? You talk about the quality of your sleep instead of the latest mountain you’ve conquered, realize that you can’t eat fries like a teenager anymore. Maybe you buy a sports car…I’ve heard that’s a thing… or embark on ways to ‘discover’ yourself.
I can’t help but wonder if the ‘crisis’ comes from not knowing how to navigate our true self. Stay with me. By the time we hit this time of life, our roles start to change. The self that we presented to the world starts to fall away. Our kids are in various stages of adulting, some of us may have parents who are starting to have health challenges (personally thankful I don’t have this one yet), we may find ourselves questioning our careers – how we want our work life to look. We might also start to discover creative passions. I know I have. Looking at our life free of the parts that defined us, shaped us for years, wondering what’s next, the questions can feel overwhelming, like a crisis.
Or, we can look at this phase of life as an awakening. We’re old enough to honestly look at our lives, discerning enough to weed through the parts that aren’t working and put those aside. At the same time, we are wise and have the freedom to explore our gifts, the talents we shelved when we were in the weeds earlier in our lives. AND (this is one of my favorites), we care far less about doing what everyone else thinks we should. Now that is freeing in and of itself.
Midlife awakening, boldly stepping into the next phase. Claiming it, embracing it. Ready to live out our authentic lives, knowing they may or may not look different than they have. Loving ourselves through it, embracing our gifts, and sharing those with the world. It’s your bold life, my friend, live it fully.