A good friend of mine once posted this question on Facebook. “What’s the difference between a midlife crisis and a midlife awakening?” Plenty of answers were offered, but the one I remember most vividly was this, “A midlife awakening creates a midlife crisis.”
I can relate to that. Reaching the age of 45 almost two years ago spurred my own midlife awakening, which in turn brought on a major (!!!) midlife crisis. I was completely unprepared for this turning point in my life because I lived in denial that I would ever experience one. I was not going to be the kind of person who was so desperate to hold onto a rapidly receding youth that I would do anything I could to pretend I was not aging. I wasn’t going to be a caricature of a midlife crisis.
Then I turned 45. Now let me explain. I did not wake up on my 45th birthday in mourning for my lost youth. It was just another day. I’m not sure that I was consciously aware of anything out of the ordinary on that day, other than I wasn’t happy that I was spending another birthday overweight, overtired and unsure of what I wanted out of life. My awakening was an evolving process that culminated in the realization that 45 years had passed in the twinkling of an eye. If I was lucky enough to live till I was 90, how did I want to spend the next 45 years? Especially, ESPECIALLY, knowing how fast that time would go. How did I want to spend the next 45 years of my life?
Even though I had sworn never to engage in classic midlife crisis behavior, I did undergo some pretty dramatic physical transformations. I lost a lot of weight, which I’ve written about in a previous blog. I grew out my benign but age appropriate bob of a haircut. I colored my hair even before I turned 45, but I generally stuck to the safe brunette shades of my natural color. Not anymore people! I didn’t realize how dramatically different my hair color is until I returned to Iowa a few weeks ago. Friends, acquaintances, even my own parents didn’t recognize me at first because according to them I’ve gotten so blonde.
Fear not. I have not embraced my inner Marilyn Monroe. I am not sporting a platinum coif. I like to describe my hair as a combination of warm honey, caramel and some blonde highlights. But I digress. My hair is several shades lighter. Why? Why not?
I think those last two words are the crux of my midlife crisis. Why not? Greater than any physical transformation I have undergone is the mental, emotional and spiritual transformation I have made and am making. What struck me most about turning 45 was that I had lived a great deal of my life in fear. I was afraid of taking big risks. What if I failed? And if I did take a risk and it didn’t pay off the way I thought it should then my fear quadrupled. One example of this was that I applied to some graduate programs about seven years ago and didn’t get in. Instead of trying some other schools, I gave up, convinced I just didn’t have the right stuff for doctoral work because I couldn’t bear failing again.