The Mid-Life Catastrophe — A Catalyst or Crisis?

During my daily reading, I often fall prey to clickbait of various articles and reviews that pop up on the channels and forums I frequent. Many of them are topics related to human interests, hobbies, life, and other odds & ends. This week, I stumbled upon an article related to ‘mid-life crisis’ — something that you often hear in casual conversations, mostly in jest, especially if someone is doing something that’s not in line with their usual style, be it appearance, an activity, a purchase, or significant shifts in one’s career or personal life. I clicked through many an article and the fact that it seemed like a ‘real’ phenomenon piqued my interest. There’s been extensive studies and research around this, and many writers have shared diverse views and opinions. At the end of reading multiple articles during my one-week off in Vietnam for Chinese New Year holidays, I couldn’t draw a conclusion to what this really means.

So, I did an interesting experiment. Out of sheer curiosity, I dropped a message to a few folks within my circle — men and women representing various age groups asking them two simple questions: what’s your view or opinion about mid-life crisis; do you think you have or feel you are going through one, and if yes, why?

I have to say though that the group of around 15 people I posed the question to are those known to me personally, so I can relate some of their responses to each of their life journeys. The age group ranged from 35 to 55.

The responses were intriguing, hilarious, and some a little sad. While some of the articles I read tended to generalize based mainly on age and gender (of course based on a much larger and comprehensive pool of respondents), the responses I received were completely mixed. The funniest of them all, and one that resonated with me, was this response — “It’s a marketing ploy by psychologists and big pharma. Everyone will go through some form of crisis at different points in their lives. Some people could view their whole lives as a never-ending crisis — like Tarzan swinging from one vine to the next — or just life happening. It’s all a point of view” (no smart guesses on the respondent because I swore anonymity when I asked the questions)!

Because I know each of these people personally, I tried to analyze their responses in relation to their personalities and life journey — both in terms of career and personal life rather than just (only) gender or age. And here’s what I could conclude, broadly based on personal and professional journey because I felt many of them base their level of happiness on how they’ve fared in these two aspects, irrespective of age and gender:

Category 1: Good career and personal life — Content, feeling of fulfilment, may have missed out on a few things on the bucket list, but given those are mostly materialistic, there’s no regret. Some may have gone beyond their comfort zones and resorted to little things like shaving one’s head or growing their hair (men) or getting tattoos and piercings in strange places, but in general, life is good for these folks

Category 2: Those who have progressed well in their careers, but have had turbulent personal lives — Some regret, sadness, confusion, and a sense of remorse and failure despite being financially stable. A few though have found comfort by embarking on a spiritual journey that has helped them tide over rough times and helped them to move on

Category 3: Happy personal life and some progress in terms of career — Relatively content with a decent, balanced and comfortable life. There’s time for enjoying simpler things in life and doing fun things as well

The chats were interesting and some shared very detailed stories, which I’ve promised to learn more of when we meet in person just for my interest and not for publishing. It seems that ‘midlife’ fears do hit you at some point between 35 and 55. Most times, this happens with an unexpected event like the death of a loved one or a hurtful break-up. For me, personally, it may have been the loss of a dear friend at 39, who was also leading plans to celebrate our 40th birthday in an exotic location overseas, leaving many of us wondering if we’re running out of time to do what we must do and want to do. But can such events be labelled crises? I’d rather consider these ‘transitions’ because these can happen at any point in your life. It all depends on how you adapt, adjust, align and move on. To do this, you need to live and cherish your dreams and passions instead of only focusing on work and making money. So, don’t wait till your 50+ to do the things you truly love — be courageous, ignore what the world will say, surround yourself with positive people who will challenge and support you, else you will fall into Category 2 above. While you have multiple roles to play both in society and your professional field, reserve time for yourself and invest it in doing things that bring mental harmony and balance to your otherwise rat-race life. Above all, embracing and nurturing a life filled with mindfulness and spirituality from an early age will help you through the travails because while life can be joyous, it will throw some unexpected curve balls at you without a warning. These are life crises, but all the little things you do will help you to transition from young, to youth, middle-age and old-age with grace and satisfaction.

One of my respondents cheekily threw these questions back at me, and luckily, I had a ready response: crisis is an ugly and negative word, I believe in transitioning and transforming oneself throughout life’s journey. And I will never experience a mid-life crisis because I remain 16 (OK maybe 26)!

Make midlife your catalyst to do bigger and better things and not let you drown and suffocate in life’s catastrophes. And do this with absolute conviction.

“The day we wake up without needing validation is the day we dance freely.”

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