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.
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.