Tuesday 17 January 2017

Doctor's orders... Crisis? What crisis?

Published 21/09/2015 | 02:30

If your life is going well then you can have a mid-life gear change, rather than a mid-life crisis. Certainly there's no need to fear anything as extreme as the experience of John Malkovich's character in Burn After Reading
If your life is going well then you can have a mid-life gear change, rather than a mid-life crisis. Certainly there's no need to fear anything as extreme as the experience of John Malkovich's character in Burn After Reading

I've been pondering the notion of mid-life crises lately. No, I'm not having one (As far as I know - although do people know, if they're having one themselves?) but the concept has arisen in several conversations lately and I have been thinking about what it means.

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Mid-life crises tend to be associated with men. The cliche usually runs along the lines of a man of a certain age, who fears his own mortality, who goes out and starts an affair and buys a sports car.

And like all cliches, I'm sure there is some truth in that. But I suspect that those who are experiencing a crisis in these instances are people who aren't very happy in their lives and, driven by that back-of-the-mind knowledge that they don't have forever, and the desire to make this spin of the wheel count - they take sometimes radical steps to try and shake up their lives, one way or another.

Those who aren't unhappy in their lives, may also have a sense of existential angst though, as they too realise, that there's as much behind them as in front - but I think any change that someone in a good place is likely to make, will tend to be more muted. More like a mid-life gear change than a crisis, really.

And is it only men who have mid-life crises?

Of course not!

Although women may be less associated with the stereotype for lots of reasons; like they traditionally had fewer options financially to throw caution to the wind, or they often had a burden of responsibility for child-rearing that was almost inescapable. But equally it may simply be the case, that the narrative of women who were experiencing a mid-life crisis was simply never told, never heard, no one talked about it. No one cared if they were yearning for past loves or desperate to start a new venture. No one noticed.

What I've noticed among many people who've turned 40ish - both men and women - is a burgeoning desire to mix it up. Your kids are older, so sleepless nights and six o'clock starts are a thing of the past. You've spent your twenties partying and studying. Your thirties establishing families, homes and careers. But you reach your forties and what do you do but take stock? You've no desire for more kids. You don't want to move house. Your career is tootling along. And so you have an 'Is that it?' moment, a 'What next?' phase.

Yes some people will leave relationships or start new ones. Some people may even - if they can afford it - spend on indulgences. But for many, mid-life is not a crisis but it is a renaissance of sorts. An involuntary desire to make sure you suck the marrow from the bone for whatever time you have left. Lots of people change jobs. Lots of people - especially lots of women - go back to college now that they have some time on their hands. Lots of men take up sports involving Lycra. Lots of people decide, yes I am going to write that crime novel - because if not now, then when?

Is that depressing? Personally I don't think so. I think it's an inescapable fact that life is short. And there's every chance there's nothing after this roll of the dice. And all you can do is try and make your fleeting time on this planet as positive and exciting an experience as possible for you and yours.

Is that a crisis? Only if you're currently making a mess of things. If you're where you want to be, it's more of a stock take.

But it is worth giving it some thought. Because your subconscious is thinking about it anyway - Carpe Diem.

@ciarakellydoc

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