I think I’ve discovered what makes a mid-life crisis what it is. At least for me, a thirty-something married mother of three. (By the way, before we go any further, this post in no way constitutes psychological advice of any kind; in other words, your mileage may vary.)
When I was starting out in my twenties, I made certain choices: who I wanted to be, what kind of career path I wanted to take, who I chose to marry and share my life with. But for some reason I seem to have decided that once the big decisions in life were made, I was going to become a stagnant person–never changing, never growing. And the excitement and energies brought about in making such life-changing choices can sustain themselves all by themselves for years while you work through your plans even as you forget your ultimate goal, which hopefully was to become the person you were meant to be. Every choice we make, everything we do in our lives, shapes us as individuals whether we want it to or not.
But at some point, the catalyst loses steam. The bloom is off the rose, so to speak. We finally come out of the self-induced coma of large-scale plans coming to fruition (in whatever degree it has happened) and remember something vitally important–we are more than the product of our plans. I am more than somebody’s wife or mother or sister or daugher or friend. I am who I am, and there is nobody else like me. And suddenly I feel the overwhelming need to re-acquaint myself with the person I feel I have left behind in favor of consolidation with work and family. I don’t want to quit my job or get a divorce, or even cut off all my hair or get plastic surgery. I just need to rediscover the person who put all of these choices into motion in the first place. Why did I make the choices I made? What was I hoping to achieve within myself? Somehow in trying to make the changes I sought, I have forgotten the reason why. It’s a stunning realization, to be sure.
I think everybody reaches this point in their lives. The fact that for most of us it seems to happen in the “middle” of our lives is probably what earned it the name “mid-life crisis”. And honestly, I think a lot of people don’t handle it well. Instead of returning to the person they are at their core, they for whatever reason choose to reinvent themselves into something different. Hence the career changes, divorces, and whatever other negative things happen to some people at this stage. It’s as if they fear the person they were “before” isn’t good enough so a complete and total overhaul is necessary to become “better”.
I have to remember that as much as I have changed, and will continue to change throughout my life, at my core I am the same person I have always been. There are certain truths about me that are unchangeable. And they are bigger truths than the rather simple roles I am assigned in various people’s lives. To what end, I don’t know. But I refuse to keep walking through life with blinders on. The plans are already in motion, and have even met with some success. Now I just have to remember who and what started it all.