Let’s begin with the case for the prosecution:
- 41 years of age
- 3 tattoos in the last 2 years
- Online dating veteran – had more dates than an Egyptian market stall
- Undergoing an image overhaul with an Image & Styling Consultant
- Telling the whole world about it
I put it to you, ladies and gentleman, that the evidence points in one direction only, two words: Midlife Crisis.
“I object your honour!”
Please allow me to present the case for the defence.
Yes, on the face of it I’m aware that an accusing finger may be pointed in my direction. Certainly, a look at the definition of the term may embolden the prosecution’s case:
“A midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle aged individuals.” (Wikipedia)
“When a person (more commonly a man than a woman) begins to question their purpose and direction in life and oftentimes begins to regress back to their teenage years in the way they think and act. They usually are laughed at by their peers because they make themselves look silly by acting a much younger version than they actually are.” (Urban Dictionary)
The idea of reaching middle age isn’t one that has ever really concerned me and turning 40 didn’t bring with it a raging storm of fear and regret. What it did bring was a sense of the surreal: saying out loud that I was 40 didn’t connect with my idea of who I was, bringing to mind as it did images of my Dad at his 40th birthday party and the realisation that I was now that old (but, thankfully, without the ‘tache).
Despite how young at heart we may feel the world conspires to remind us that, ‘no, really, you are middle-aged’: your doctor and dentist are far younger than you are; when asked your age you sometimes have to calculate it from your date of birth; when filling in electronic forms your finger tires from scrolling back to find the year of your birth; your secondary school reunion marks 30 years since you started secondary school….
I’m fortunate that I still have all of my hair (including my chest hair which remains, and shall forever remain, resolutely unwaxed: defence exhibit 1), I have yet to discover any grey poking its way through, and apparently I don’t look 41; in the face of such harsh reminders however there’s no escaping the facts, no comforting illusion to obscure the truth.
Son, you’re getting old.
It’s this realisation that can bring about the midlife crisis, and as the passage of time inexorably gathers pace we begin to question whether we have crested our peak and are now hastily heading onto the downward slope.
Midlife crises are inevitably seen as somewhat tragic, sad, desperate and futile, but as we approach middle-age it is natural to consider where we are in our lives and to question whether we have made the right choices, whether it really is all downhill from here and whether the best days of our lives can really still be ahead of us.
These thoughts are compounded by the fact that we no longer have the freedom we once had to shape the direction of our lives, as responsibilities have encroached on the freedom of our spirit and the decisions we made in our 30s – career, mortgage, marriage, children – seem to have encased our future in a predictable mold.
Are we happy with the pattern we have set? With the path that we see before us? Such questions are inevitable. Hell, they’re compulsory.
With the accumulated experience and wisdom of our advancing years we fear that we have become, to quote Mike Tyson, “Old too soon, smart too late.”
If only I had…. If only I did…. If only I hadn’t…. If I only I could….
In my case circumstances have forced upon me such reflections as major life events of depression and divorce mean that the option of continuing what was a comfortable pattern of life is no longer on the table. And in my defence I would say that it is fundamentally necessary to live life more fully, to explore options and opportunities that would never have presented themselves had my journey continued on its former path. Only by doing so can I actively shape my life in the direction that I wish for it to go, rather than wandering aimlessly into a comforting, but potentially unfulfilling, rut.
In these circumstances one of the beauties of middle-age reveals itself: remember that need for approval, the desire for peer acceptance and concern about what others thought of us that hitched a ride on our backs throughout our teens and twenties?
You can say goodbye to that parasite.
What do others think of me, of my life choices? Couldn’t give a toss m’lud.
Because when faced with life’s hardships and pitfalls, the trials that have shaped me, it was me that was asked the questions and only me that could answer the challenges. It didn’t matter what anybody else thought of me then, it doesn’t matter what they think of me now.
I haven’t bought a sports car (OK, I can’t afford one, not the best example) and I haven’t dyed my hair a strange rusty red colour. And I suggest that this transitional period of life, this conscious effort to shape the years to come to ensure that we will not look back on our lives with regret, can be seen not as a midlife crisis but rather a midlife chrysalis.
“Midlife Chrysalis: a time of transformation from which we can emerge to fly with our boldest colours on display; the birthplace of our best selves, the launchpad from which we can reach the best years of our lives and live them fully and fearlessly.” (Greater Not-Very-Concise Williams English Dictionary)
The defence rests its case.
Midlife Crisis – Faith No More