Tips for Those Who Aren’t There Yet
“We don’t understand life any better at forty than at twenty, but we know it and admit it.”
Shortly after turning 43 about 3 years ago, I woke up in a cold sweat. My heart was pounding, and I was scared. But, this wasn’t a nightmare.
It was a realization I would die. And I freaked the hell out.
I’m not sure if it was something I had never thought about before or it was because I was getting older. It could have been because I was stagnant in my life. I hated my job, my life and was overall miserable.
I remember that night like it was yesterday. I thought to myself, “Oh shit, I will die!” It was such a defining moment for me. It made me recognize my mortality.
So I made plans to change my life. Instead of fearing death, it energized me. And although I didn’t make a drastic change right then, I took control of my life. I’m no longer working in a job I hate, I’m in the best shape of my life, and I can finally say I’m happy.
Death made me alive.
What Is A Mid-Life Crisis?
When people think of a mid-life crisis, they often relate it to men going out to buy an expensive car or finding a younger woman to run off with. For women, it may be more of a case of identity or their roles in the home and workplace.
A mid-life crisis is characterized by events such as a person’s age, a feeling of impending death, and a lack of “success” in life. There can also be other triggers such as a person’s parents dying or worrying about retirement or health concerns. These events may lead to depression, anxiety, and a need to change one’s life.
Some say the mid-life crisis isn’t real. But I know I experienced a crisis during the years considered to be the middle of life. I experienced a feeling of impending death. I experienced depression and anxiety. And I felt the need to change my life.
I felt the need to change because I was miserable and I could not continue living that way. I realized I’ve wasted so much time being in a job I hated. I’ve worried about meaningless things and was angry over events I could not control.
But the biggest realization is I don’t want to regret the life I’ve lived when I die.
The Life Chart
Some of you may have already seen the above chart. It is a graphic of each week in a 90-year-old person’s life.
If I were to complete the chart, it would fill a little more than half. Yours will look different from mine. You may have more filled in or you may have less.
But, you will probably not live until 90. The average life expectancy is 71.5 years. Women tend to live a little longer than men, so according to your gender, it may be more or less.
You could die tomorrow.
This chart is important because it shows you there will be an ending to your life. It shows you how life can get away if we let it.
So each week in your chart should be filled with things which make you happy. It should bring you joy to fill in each week on the chart because that means you are living a life you want to live. And you are still alive.
Not everyone will experience a mid-life crisis. Or if you do, your experience may be different. You may experience a quarter-life crisis. A crisis can also happen at the end of life. By then, it’s too late.
But in speaking with people around my age, the mid-life crisis seems to be common. When you reach a certain age, you wonder “Is this all there is to life?” And you realize you are not immortal.
Avoiding the Mid-Life Crisis
If I had the chance to do things over again, I don’t know if I would change anything. My experiences have made me who I am today. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I’ve learned from them.
But I would tell my younger self a few things about life. And these things I believe would have helped me avoid a “mid-life crisis.”
Think of death often. Not in a morbid way, but to remind yourself it will happen. Use death as motivation to live each day the way you want. To live unburdened by things beyond your control and by things which do not matter. Because most of it doesn’t matter.
Start now. If there is something about your life you dislike, start now to change it. Whether it be your job, body, relationships, or finances, start today to take control. Change it now, or it can turn into complacency. Don’t wait until a crisis happens to change.
Make progress on something that matters to you every day. Even if it is something small, doing an activity which brings you joy or excites you should be done each day. Every day should be a non-zero day.
Don’t stay in a job you hate. Your health, both mental and physical, are not worth a paycheck. Money is nice, but not at the expense of your health. Figure out what you need to do to find another job or support yourself, then get out. Sometimes you don’t realize how much stress you are under until you get rid of it.
Define success for yourself. Don’t let others define what success looks like for you. YOU define it for YOU and no one else.
Live a life true to yourself. Do what YOU want. No one has to live your life but you and you are the only
Get help. If you are struggling, get help. Don’t keep the anger, the depression or the anxiety inside. Decide you will not allow life to control you anymore.
Take care of your body. Exercise and eat well. This one is obvious, but when you reach your 40s, your body doesn’t adjust like it did in your 20s. Trying to make up for all the lost exercise and bad diet doesn’t work when you are older. Maintain a regular routine of exercise and eating healthy starting early.
Crisis Or Realization?
“Turn your midlife crisis to your own advantage by making it a time for renewal of your body and mind.”
—Jane E. Brody
After looking back over the past year since my life has changed, I believe what I experienced was not necessarily a crisis, but a realization. I realized I no longer wanted to be in that dark place I was in. I no longer wanted to work for someone else or stay in a job I hated.
But more importantly, I realized I would still be in a crisis if I remained in the life I was living. I would still be in a crisis if I kept drinking or if I didn’t take an honest look at myself and figure out what was wrong.
To get out of this crisis, I had to reinvent myself. I had to change.
So I changed.
Even if I don’t end up where I want to be, I know I tried. And I won’t regret anything as long as I tried.
Don’t regret your life. Make each day something to treasure.