Yea. I finally understand it, the midlife crisis. AND, it is not an ailment of 40-50 something white men buying sports cars and trading their wives in like 80’s movies portrays. Although it might be a 1st world problem.
The "crisis" did come on a lot earlier than I expected.
When I was younger, I used to get the JCPenny catalogue out (you know that giant one) and star all the things I wanted in my bedroom. That dreaming grew into planning the ways I would decorate when I had my own house. I dreamt like others of being successful at a job I loved. I’d plan an amazing wedding to a wonderful husband. We'd be rich of course. We would plan how many kids we’d have. I would be an awesome a mom to those bazzilion kids and it would be easy. Surely we’d take family vacations and be able to do, go, be, and have whatever we wanted.
I had to set goals and dreams as a kid. My family struggled. We always had a roof over our head but the conditions weren’t great. I always had clothes on my back but they were my mom’s or came from a friend. We always had food but it was purchased with food stamps. We always had Christmas but it never compared to my friends’.
I was determined to pursue a life that would be successful and free from financial struggle. So my expectations entering college didn’t change much. I thought I’d be successful at a job that I would easily and happily leave to be a stay at home mom in my big house. I’d spend my time going to fancy parties, volunteering, and baking. We’d bank a nice 401K. We’d take vacations whenever we wanted and go on mission trips. Every day would be blissful and happy. [insert eye roll here]
Then life happens, right, and it derails those dreams.Your ego is bruised. You don’t get that perfect job. It takes you three years to conceive that miracle. You realize there are too many things outside your control to achieve all those perfect dreams you planned and thought God had blessed. Some of my friends will read this and say well that sounds a lot like your life and others will say your life is blessed. It's true we have have achieved some of those things and we are blessed but I still find myself trying to reconcile my dreams with my realities. This takes an emotional toll on us.
I think the stupidest thing I thought is it would be easy. In my 20’s I could see those aspirations and they seem so attainable, so natural. I had so much heart and drive that it would be a cinch.
As you start pursing all those dreams you begin to discover that you don’t have as much control as you thought. You will have to work hard for some of it no matter how much heart you have; no matter how capable you are, you aren’t alone in those kinds of dreams. So you have to bob and weave or set and reset. You make hard decisions that push you further away from those dreams or you realize some of them might have been foolish to begin with.
You are plugging along doing the best you can day to day and BAM! There comes a time when you are hit smack in the face with the realization that you are not going to reach all those dreams and maybe you aren’t even on track to get there.
That’s it. Welcome to middle age. Now what?
Well, as in most things, the important part is how you respond. Will you ignore it and go on living the same day to day routine making no changes that will get you toward those dreams of old? Do you deny it by proving you can have all the control and do a little retail therapy, (aka buy a sports car) or do you reflect and adjust your course? How we respond at this point is critical in the long term toward our happiness. The way I look at it I can linger in the disappointments and become bitter or I can be hopeful in the new possibilities.
I choose to be hopeful in the new possibilities. I am reflecting and trying to readjust. This takes more than planning. You can’t just reset your course. In these 40 years (yes 40 #hariflip) I’ve learned so much about myself. For instance, I am a better mom because I work. I don’t need a big house. What I really want is a little family homestead. Having all those things from the JCPenny catalogue ….not important. I want experiences over things. I didn’t know any of that when I was in my 20’s. What is important to me and those things I dream of now are different than they were 20 years ago.I understand that I wasn’t ever really looking for success. I was searching for happiness.
So I finally understand it, the middle age crisis. Only for me I wouldn’t call it a crisis. It’s been an epiphany.