I did not know how to deal with a midlife crisis. In my mind it wasn’t happening. I was just changing the way I had been living for the past 20 years. The things I thought would make me happy — money, career success, status — had lost their sizzle. My job, the way I earned money, felt obligatory. I was just going through the motions. Work didn’t satisfy me anymore. My midlife crisis wasn’t postpartum blues for the loss of my youth. At 50, I was feeling my Titanic expectations for adulthood crash against the mundane iceberg of my reality. Note to self, a common misperception of adulthood is that you know what you’re doing. Then you find out you don’t.
My need for change was basic. All I wanted to do was blow up my life and start over with pursuits that felt more meaningful than writing formulas in an Excel spreadsheet. I wanted to live off the grid. Not without electricity, without math. I started a farm, traded PowerPoint for a wheelbarrow and a manure shovel, learned to grow potatoes, shook off the Wall Street Journal and started reading the Farmer’s Almanac. Then I put a mini fridge on the front porch to sell eggs in an honor system farm store with a glass jar for the money. The honor system was my new religion.
Unfortunately, I could not pay my mortgage in free range chicken and grassfed beef. To sustain my irrational exuberance for farming I drained my retirement accounts, cashed in my life insurance policy and maxed out my credit cards. Eventually, the only way out of all that debt was to sell the farm. Farming was the most rewarding work I have ever done, but financially I would have been better off chained to a computer in a cubicle at the office.
Learning how to deal with a midlife crisis was challenging, not unlike the other seminal events of midlife, menopause and sexual dysfunction. We were made to go through these changes, but we don’t get much encouragement to learn about them. There’s no adult education class on How to Have a Super Midlife Crisis. Of course, midlife is different for everyone, and much of what we experience is cultural. Some say the modern midlife crisis isn’t real, or it’s only for the middle class, or it’s only for men. But it seems natural to me that midway through our lives we would want to assess our progress and re-evaluate our plans. It makes sense that maturity would impact our goals and objectives. Correcting the course of our lives by making different choices seems practical. Perhaps our biggest challenge in midlife is resistance to change.
I’m a person with the opposite problem. I thrive on change. It exhilarates me. I don’t regret crushing my lifestyle in the name of idealism. It was a great adventure. I’m stronger now, more resilient, and better equipped for an uncertain future. In fact, now that I know how to deal with a midlife crisis, I’m expecting a late life crisis. Probably around the time I’m 80 I’ll have the feeling that I’ve made all the wrong choices again, playing it too safe, napping when I should be learning to play the tuba. That’s when I’m going to buy a little red sports car, start dating younger men, and get a tattoo on my left breast that says Oops!
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