Growing older and hitting ‘mid-life’ is often a time of great change – but it affects everyone differently…
When I was approaching my fortieth birthday, I thought I’d celebrate it with gusto. I’d seen my parents’ social circle all go at their midlife birthdays with hilarity and enthusiasm in the ‘70s, having huge parties and buying each other bottles of Bob Martins (if you know, you know). I assumed I’d feel the same; a celebration, and a wry nod and wink as you enter middle age.
So when I found myself really minding being 40, I was surprised. I ended up avoiding the whole thing, and just having a quiet takeaway with my boyfriend (who was secretly delighted not to have to organise a party). Once I’d got over myself, I had an absolute humdinger on my forty-first though, hired a whole hotel, had casino tables, live music, the lot. I more than made up for it.
As I approached my fiftieth, I wondered if I’d feel the same. But Covid had other plans for me anyway. My fiftieth was in January 2020. I still haven’t marked my half century, and I’m 53 now. I’m considering a Studio 54-themed bash next year, but don’t hold me to it.
What really struck me, though, was that I’d cared so much about turning 40. I don’t consider myself vain, but I really felt like it was a big hurdle. My youth was behind me. It was quite a shock. I had a little midlife crisis.
So what is a midlife crisis?
Patient UK describes a midlife crisis as “a period where a person may experience changes in their emotional or physical well-being leading to changed behaviour or a decline in their mental health.”
Generally, ‘midlife crisis’ is a negative term used to describe a period of intense self-reflection that occurs in middle age. During this time, many people experience a sense of unease or dissatisfaction with their lives, and may feel that they have not accomplished what they wanted to.
Symptoms of a midlife crisis can include a desire to make drastic changes to one's life, such as quitting a job or ending a long-term relationship. They can also include feelings of anxiety or depression. Many people also report feeling a sense of nostalgia for their youth, and may engage in activities that they used to enjoy in an attempt to recapture some of that feeling.
And yes, I’m talking about getting a motorbike (impulse purchases), going out with unsuitably young people (recapturing youth), or deciding 53 is the perfect age to join a rock and roll band (just plain bonkers). I’ve been surprised at how many of these stereotypes are playing out around me within my friendship circle.
Not everyone will have a rough time
It's important to note that not everyone will experience a midlife crisis, and that those who do may have very different experiences. For some people, a midlife crisis may be a relatively brief period of introspection that leads to positive changes in their lives. For others, it may be a more prolonged and difficult period that requires professional help to navigate.
But for many people, their midlife may feel like a wonderful time of transformation, growth, and metamorphosis. A chance to reassess one’s life, and to embrace change. To do things they might have put off, or simply use the shift to shake things up a bit.
Seeing midlife as a time for positive change
How about we reframe midlife crisis as a powerful catalyst for change. The transition can encourage people to re-evaluate their goals and make changes that align with their true desires and passions. In this way, a midlife change can be seen as an invitation to transform one's life and become the person they truly want to be – leading to a more fulfilling and authentic life.
Have you been stuck in a career that didn’t feel right? Or going through the motions in other areas of your life, wishing there were things you could do? This is a chance to let go of societal expectations and live more authentically. Pursue passions or hobbies that you’ve put on hold, explore new career paths, or even engage in relationships that are more aligned with your true self.
While midlife can certainly come with its challenges, there are many great things about this stage of life. By embracing the positive aspects of midlife, it’s possible to navigate this time with a real sense of purpose.
Want to make the most of your midlife?
Although saying goodbye to the days of your youth can be hard, there’s a lot going for midlife. Some things to consider…
Increased Self-Awareness: By midlife, many people have had enough life experiences to have a better sense of who they are, what they value, and what they want out of life. This self-awareness can lead to greater satisfaction and fulfilment in life.
Financial Stability: Many people reach a point of financial stability in midlife, which can provide a sense of security and allow for more flexibility in career choices and personal pursuits.
Improved Relationships: By midlife, people have had the opportunity to develop long-lasting and meaningful relationships, both with family and friends. These relationships can provide a sense of connection and support that is invaluable.
Career Success: Many people reach the peak of their career success in midlife, having accumulated a wealth of experience and expertise over the years. This success can provide a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Opportunity for Reinvention: Midlife can be a time for reinvention and pursuing new passions and interests. People may feel more comfortable taking risks and trying new things, which can lead to personal growth and fulfilment.
Increased Confidence: With age comes a greater sense of confidence and self-assurance. People may be more comfortable expressing their opinions and standing up for themselves, which can lead to greater success and satisfaction in life.
Time for Travel: Many people in midlife have more time and resources to travel, which can provide opportunities for new experiences, cultural enrichment, and personal growth.
Wisdom and Experience: By midlife, people have accumulated a wealth of wisdom and experience, which can be invaluable to younger generations. Sharing this knowledge can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
Improved Health: Many people in midlife have developed healthy habits and routines, leading to improved physical and mental health. This can provide a sense of vitality and energy that enhances all aspects of life.
Opportunity for Giving Back: Midlife can be a time to give back to the community and make a difference in the world. People may have the time, resources, and experience to volunteer, mentor, or contribute to charitable causes.
Don’t suffer in silence
If you’re finding the midlife transition tough, perhaps consider seeking professional help, such as therapy or counselling, to help you navigate this difficult time. A therapist can provide a safe and non-judgmental space to explore one's feelings and work through any underlying issues that may be contributing to the midlife crisis.
And talk to your friends. Whether you’re looking for support, or you can offer a shoulder to a friend struggling with their midlife transition, community and friendship is always going to be a vital part of healing.