I read an article recently that suggested midlife and the years that follow is “not for the faint-hearted” and that, as it sits ominously ahead of us, the approach to this time in our life is littered with apprehension and existential questioning – essentially that term I have never liked – a ‘midlife crisis’.
I like that we shouldn’t be faint-hearted. Absolutely, if we are lucky enough to reach them, these are the years of change and choice that might need us to be more intrepid and fearless – but can they really be considered a crisis? Easily daunted or not, surely this is potentially the most liberating time in our life, and the idea that catastrophe waits for us behind the midlife doors is absurd.
As the trappings of responsibility begin to shift, the doors we choose to open now are just as significant going forwards as the ones we close. Choice is back on the cards, and it’s not just about the choices we may or may not make, it’s the fact that we actually have them that becomes important, mostly unfettered by many of the obligations we have carved out for ourselves throughout the past couple of decades.
So this is a time of renaissance. We can re-evaluate the roles we’ve played, change course, question societal or dutiful expectations that have surrounded us for years, redefine our identity beyond the traditional, and seize opportunities that resonate so much more now with our authentic self. And yet – as the dynamics of our daily life gradually slide into this new era, and almost imperceptibly at times, suddenly we are in a place completely unprepared for. Perhaps this is the conflict that feeds into the notion of ‘crisis’?
Strategies we have so carefully put in place throughout our earlier years no longer work in midlife, and as change speeds along at an unexpected pace, it’s feels safer to just ignore and carry on in exactly the same way, hoping that all we need to do is simply catch up. Of course it then becomes a midlife minefield full of apprehension and fear. The approach to life that once worked for us no longer works. Small wonder we feel as if we’ve plunged into some sort of crisis.
What we need to do is to use the skills we’ve honed over the years – strength, resilience, resourcefulness and an innate ability to adapt. This is what we do best. The accumulation of wisdom taken from decades of experience, from our successes and failures, is what enables us to adapt successfully to the challenge that this time of life can be. It isn’t a crisis by any measure, but it is change and it does demand adjustment. As exhilarating as that that can be, it’s a daunting prospect.
So it’s not so much that midlife isn’t for the ‘faint-hearted’ at all, it’s more that we now have greater choice. Midlife and the years beyond will be whatever we choose them to be, individually and without judgement from others, to suit how we wish to spend this next stage of life. If we choose to run with adventure, to wholeheartedly seek the opportunities opening up to us and to make midlife decisions that alter the course of our future, then it takes courage, determination and every ounce of self-belief we can muster. And that is most definitely not for the faint-hearted.