Midlife crisis? What midlife crisis?

I’ve been thinking a lot about ageing recently. I’ve had reason to. Earlier this year my father-in-law passed away and such events always concentrate the mind. Added to this, my brothers have both had children and talk at home is frequently about secondary school applications, something we’ll be doing for Helen next year. These are all signs life is moving on at a rapid pace and I’ve had to face the fact that I have reached middle age.

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The midlife crisis. Should we really talk about a crisis when it’s simply a re-evaluation of priorities?

Yes, I know, with my incredible skincare regime, it’s hard to believe that I have reached this point in life. In fact, I recently went to buy some beers at the supermarket and the guy in charge of the self-service till had to approve my age. While he didn’t go as far as asking to see identification, he wasn’t far off it before pressing the “Over 25” button.

All right, that was a freak incident. I haven’t been age checked in years, but I found the situation hilarious and I’ve been laughing about it ever since.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the midlife crisis. I had an aged related crisis when I was younger and swore I’d not allow myself to have another one later in life.

It was when I turned from 19 to 20 years. I was a bit of a bum at that age and I think I knew, deep down, that I was under achieving. My friends had mostly drifted away from me and into higher education. They’d made new friends and were learning new skills, building new lives for themselves away from home.

I was hanging out with the same people, flitting from dead-end job to dead-end job, going to the same pub every weekend in the same dreary small town. I eventually woke up to this fact and packed myself off to college as a mature student. Not, however, before I’d had that crisis when I hit the big Two-Zero. At the time I swore I’d never have another age-related crisis and I’ve stayed true to my word.

My question, however, is why we refer to people as having a “midlife crisis”? Doesn’t that sound incredibly negative?

I recently read a great post by Tom Porte on his blog, Ideas4dads. Aged 39 and with his fortieth birthday not too far off, Tom admits he has taken up cycling and become a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra).

Is this the sign of someone having a crisis, or someone simply realising they aren’t going to live forever and need to take better care of their health? While I haven’t taken up cycling, I have started exercising more regularly and paying closer attention to my diet.

I have also become much more aware of the fact my parents and older relatives are ageing. I talk to my friends about these things and can see that we’re getting close to payback time. We’re slowly but surely going to be caring for our parents as well as our offspring and have to accept our generation is next in line to need looking after.

I’m sure we all know of people who struggle with this, who maybe question what they’ve achieved with their lives so far and undergo cosmetic procedures or get tattooed in the hope it will make them feel better. Yes, living up to the cliche, I’ve known people reach a certain age and have damaging extra-marital affairs (men and women, I should add). I’ve not known anyone buy a motorbike, but I know of one guy who bought a 4×4, his wife swearing it was because he’d hit middle age.

For those of us who manage to handle ageing slightly better, is it really a crisis or simply a re-evaluation? For most people in their late thirties and forties, their kids’ ultra-demanding days are through and their darling children are settled into the school system.

For the first time in years, they have a little time (….not too much time, school kids are also demanding) to look at their lifestyle and actually do something about their weight / diet / threadbare wardrobe / hairstyle that hasn’t changed in seven years.

This may involve a new exercise regime and wearing active wear. It may involve running the London Marathon, cutting out booze Monday to Friday or eating quinona salad. And how does someone who reacts to ageing in this positive way get referred to? They get told they’re having a midlife crisis.

Leaving your wife and kids and disappearing off into the distance on a Harley Davidson with your twenty-something secretary sitting riding pillion on the back with her arms around your middle-aged spread, now that’s a crisis. Embracing the effects of ageing and adjusting your lifestyle to accommodate and mitigate them isn’t a crisis. Strikes me that it’s a very good idea.

Then again, maybe referring to middle age as a crisis simply makes younger people feel better. I can certainly remember sneering at older people, with their family-friendly cars and careers when I was that 19-year-old bum. It’s easy to judge people from afar, isn’t it?

I say embrace the change. Don’t have a crisis, but celebrate the fact you’ve reached a point in life where you can spend just a little time on yourself again.

What do you think of the phrase midlife crisis? Are you reaching this point in life or did you get there some time ago? Is it a crisis or a positive change, something to be embraced? Please do leave a comment with your thoughts below.

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6 Comments

  1. September 18, 2018 / 5:09 pm

    Hi John, I could relate to this post totally. The school children have just gone back and this is the first time I find myself not being the Mum to a school-aged child and as much as I love it (I really do), it got me thinking. Seventeen years ago, when my eldest started school these days felt a lifetime away, but now, standing at the other end they have whizzed by (although it didn’t feel like it at the time)… Midlife crisis is just a negative label and I think you’re right to say it is more about evaluating our health and lifestyle. I’ve always exercised in one way or form, but in my late 30’s I took up running quite seriously. I’ve recently stopped until I have time to see a Doctor about hip pain, but I’m a sneeze and a half away from being 50 and am rethinking my approach to exercise. No crisis, just an acceptance that if I want to remain fit and healthy I have to look after this slowly ageing body rather than be bloody-minded and cause lasting damage… Mind you there are times when I could happy roar off into the distance in a Fiat 500 and the dogs. I don’t think I have the energy to be a cougar.

    xx

    • John Adams
      Author
      September 19, 2018 / 5:39 am

      So glad you related to this Debbie. This means a lot. It’s great when people respond to blog posts in this way and fascinating to read of your running experiences. I’m having similar with an old ankle injury that’s causing me grief and I am thinking I may have to join a gym or do something else to keep fit. Not a crisis, but a re-evaluation. I can also well imagine those 17 years have flown by. I know the five my eldest have been at school have whizzed past at frightening speed. And if you are going to roar off into the distance, do it in something like a Maserati, not a Fiat 500!

  2. RobLW
    September 21, 2018 / 2:17 pm

    It sounds like to me that people have very different understanding to what a mid-life crisis is. My upbringing (therefore the people around me who I learnt from) has never led me to associate taking up a sport as a midlife crisis.
    The purchase of the motorbike, or a 2 seater convertible sports car that sounds the bloody exhaust fell off, that is what I’ve always known a midlife crisis to be.

    I wonder if it is a case of “Chinese whispers” (is that a racist saying?, hmm never considered that before!) One generation maybe knew is as I describe above, but as it gets used in jokes the younger generations learn a different meaning based on those sentences said in jest.
    E.G. Dad 1 says how he has taken up cycling, went out and splashed the cash on all the gear, Dad2 says in jest, “sounds like a midlife crisis”. Child sitting next to them takes it seriously, but really it was just typical British sarcasm and banter of taking something out of context to show whit.

    • John Adams
      Author
      September 25, 2018 / 9:18 am

      You may very well be right, attempts at humour have been misunderstood. I wouldn’t want age to become off limits for humour. That said, it simply seems odd and unfair that someone can’t start taking more care of their health without it being deemed a midlife crisis.

  3. February 26, 2019 / 8:21 pm

    Great post.

    I had a moment a few years ago and decided to embrace the crisis. I bought camping gear, joined a local adventure group and got into wild camping. Last year we travelled some amazing countries and decided to plan a gap year. This year I evaluated again and we bought a vw camper.

    Embrace it I say.

    • John Adams
      Author
      March 4, 2019 / 12:36 pm

      Oh my word, you really threw yourself into this! I think your mid-life evaluation has worked well for you. great stuff.