It sounds cliche, but I think I had a mid-life crisis this year. I turned 35 late last year and began to dwell on this basic fact: I might be halfway through my life. If we plan for 70 and hope for 100, I might have already lived half the years that I am ever going to live. In the words of Tim Urban’s Wait But Why, my life grid is halfway filled in.
That realization, as simple as it is, shook me in a way that I did not expect. I’m not afraid of dying, per se. I don’t think I’ll die anytime soon (though no day is guaranteed for any of us). But, more importantly, I started asking myself: Is this the life I want to lead? Am I making the contributions that I want to make? Am I writing the story of my life the way I want it to be written?
When I was younger, I longed for opportunity. What could I become? What *should* I become? How can I create opportunity for myself to grow and develop into something special? We all want to be special, I think.
As I enter middle-age, I realize that opportunities aren’t the limiting factor. In fact, opportunities are everywhere. It’s not so much a lack of opportunity that limits us, but limits to our time and energy. There are only so many hours in the day. Only so many minutes that our brains can focus on deep work. Am I focusing my brain on the work that matters most to me? If not, why not? Am I spending my non-work time the way it ought to be spent? Who decides how it *ought* to be spent?
I have more angst than I used to about geating older. More accurately, I have more angst about living a good life and not wasting mine. On the other hand, I have more peace than I used to. It’s not about living the *best life*, it’s about living a *good life*. One that reflects our values, our ideals, the way we view the world.
I quit my job this year. I wanted more time to think, to experience, to avoid being told how to structure my life. To live each day based on my own choices no nobody else’s. It’s all part of the mid-life crisis.
I worry about my kids more than I used to. I used to think they would just *turn out* positively, like some inevitable condition, that they would live their lives according to their own views of the world, and, regardless of what those were, it would all turn out good.
These days I worry about their suffering more than I ever did before. What if they become sad? Or angry? What if they get bullied and can’t do anything about it? What if they decide life isn’t worth living?
I worry about missing my kids when they move out of the house. And my oldest isn’t even 10 yet. I worry about spending his most important years working on my professional life, only to find out later that I didn’t experience those special years to their fullest. Is that the story of my life I want to tell?
I worry more than ever before about running out of time. Some days, life feels like a million years. Other days, it feels too short. I don’t have an agenda about making it big, making an impact, being “successful” — whatever that means — but I do care immensely about living life the right way, or at least striving for good enough.
So I’m taking more time to think these days. I’m guessing more solitude leads to more angst, but also more peace. At the very least, I’m going to give it a try, so that I don’t waste my next 35 years.
Readers: Have you ever had a mid-life crisis? What precipitated it? What changes did you make as a result, if any?
Originally written: April 2017. Republished: February 2018.