Mid-Life Crisis? Make it a Mid-Life Masterpiece

Dawn Bevier

How to forge ahead with your dreams when society tells you "game over"

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Perhaps, like me, you are sitting in front of your television, or your phone, and scrolling away and wondering, “What is left for me?” I have [insert number of kids here], [insert job responsibilities here] and [insert number of outstanding debts here.] How can I suddenly make penance for past missed opportunities? How can I feel like the attractive, vivacious person I used to be — the person who had potential, the person who had choices, so many choices, from which to build a beautiful, meaningful life?

Sometimes it is hard to untangle ourselves from the “could haves” and “should haves” that have been lost through fear, long years of struggle, or simple mindlessness. I am here to be your fairy godmother-to remind you that the ball has not ended, and that you can still be Cinderella. Dylan Thomas writes in his famous poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” It is my wish that I may be your inspiration to “rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”

Years bring wrinkles, and responsibilities, and marriage, and family, and a host of other “brutal blessings” that somehow make us think that we are now cattle, corralled into the inescapable field that is our endpoint, our final resting place. Most of us have married, pro-created, nurtured, and yet somehow we wonder if we have sacrificed our souls in the process. No! "Rage! Rage!" You are still a person, actually a better person than you were at the ripe age of seventeen! You now have knowledge, fortitude, wisdom, and confidence that took years to build. Use it!

You may call me “in denial” or group me with the supposedly delusional “Puer Aeternus” who fly through Neverland seeking the regenerative powers of lost youth. I am forty-six years old, and I have never been more bold and sparkling with potential in my entire life.

In the article written in Psychology Today entitled “Midlife: Does It Have To Be a Crisis,” Bechsgaard and McCann say that middle age presents a challenge because “we have come to the end of our prescribed life script.” Well, maybe for some, but not for me. For me, this is the beginning of a new script, one that holds all the “natural buoyancy and hopefulness” of the youth they say I should forget. Let me tell you why. Maybe you can see through my example and research that mid-life can also be the best time of your life.

1. I am freed from my “prescriptions” at long last.

The word “prescribed“ is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to lay down as a guide, direction, or rule of action.” For the last eighteen years, I have followed these societal rules of action. I have paid my collegiate dues, blended my organic baby food, parented with love and care through the “terrible twos” and an “adolescent angst” that would have put down some of Sparta’s greatest fighters.

I have spent twenty-two years teaching high school, instilling in children “the depth and seriousness” of literature and life. McCann and Bechsgaard warn me in their writing that “it is not appropriate to cling to outmoded approaches to life “or fall into the temptation to regress.” How can the “buoyancy and hopefulness“ of youth be outdated? It is my belief that not following these “age-old” urges [get the pun?] is when we truly go backwards, when we wither and shrivel up into “Yoda” figures who stand back and wait for others to ask us to impart our wisdom.

2. I have loads of corroborating evidence to support my assertions.

If all of us in the middle years of life followed the advice to be content with and fulfill our cultural expectations, would we have Samuel Jackson to entertain us? His fame began when he was forty-five and starred in Pulp Fiction. Would we be able to indulge in Vera Wang’s sophisticated fashion? She entered the industry at age forty. Thanks to Peter Mark Roget, who began the preparation for Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases when he was sixty-nine, I can use the words “antiquated” and “presumptuous” to describe those who believe my peak years are behind me.

Turning forty gives me the same beautiful options and freedoms which I tell my seventeen year old son. I tell him that now is the time to “fail big.” Just as he is at a point in his life where so many options lie open to him, so too am I. I have spent almost two decades doing my prescribed duty, and now I can “fail big.” As a matter of fact, I can “fail-bigger” than my son, for I embody the gifts of time that he does not have at this point: a deep knowledge of my strengths and my beliefs, a carefree attitude when it comes to nay-sayers and disbelievers, and a hearty knowledge that I have “served my time” in the prison of societal correctness and can do as I wish from here on out.

3. Science even backs me up.

The American Psychological Association online publication explains this phenomena is an article entitled “The Mind at Midlife.” It explains that scientific studies have shown that “the adult brain seems to be capable of rewiring itself well into middle age, incorporating decades of experiences and behaviors.

Research suggests that, for example, the middle-aged brain is calmer, less neurotic, and better able to sort through social situations.” In addition, the article indicates that “verbal abilities, spatial reasoning, simple math abilities, and abstract reasoning skills all improve in middle age.”

Give up my dreams when I am calmer, more rational, and better at abstract thinking? Oh no, I don’t think so.

The Bottom Line

Martin Luther King’s most famous speech echoes in my mind when he states that he wants to “remind America of the fierce urgency of now.” He says that “this is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

Now, my fellow mid-lifers, now is the time to be the “you” you have worked all your life to be. Now, when you have broken the shackles of conformity, when you have serviced your children and your country, is the moment to become your truest self. If, to do this, you must buy a convertible and let your thinning hairline sway in the breeze, may the winds be warm and caressing. If you want to start a business, move to Bali, get Botox, so be it. You have earned the right to live your dreams.

You have nurtured your young, fulfilled your obligations to society, with its nine-to five expectations and worn-out punch clock. The minutes ahead are yours, and I for one, call you a fool if you choose to sit back idly in your rocking chair and reminisce about the glory days.

As for me, I will choose the path of most resistance. As poet Jenny Joseph so eloquently puts it in her aptly titled poem entitled “Warning,” I “shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go” and “I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves…and make up for the sobriety of youth.”

Getting older isn’t a time to be complacent. It is a time to open your heart and your mind to the you that has waited for decades to be free. It is the time to “fail big” and not let the world tell you your limitations or your expiration date.

Spend this time wisely, or foolishly if you wish, for it is finally your time. Spend it, as Sara Teasdale says in her poem “Barter,” “and never count the cost; For one white singing hour of peace, Count many a year of strife well lost. And for a breath of ecstasy, Give all you have been, or could be.”

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Sanford, NC
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