Is middle age a time of crisis or control?
Joe Brown, a 45-year old husband, father, and successful businessman, wakes up one morning to ask, “Is this all there is?” Suddenly he feels that his life is half-over and he hasn’t yet really lived. Over the course of the next year he buys a red Corvette, steps out on his wife, drinks too much and destroys much of what he spent his earlier years building. From there, it’s a slow, but steady decline into aches, pains, and health problems. But wait… does this stereotypical midlife crisis have any basis in reality?
According to results from a large research project by the MacArthur Foundation, midlife is not a time of hazard and peril. Orville Gilbert Brim, who directed the MacArthur project, found that “the more we got into it, the more we studied it, we found that on balance, middle-age really is the best place to be.”
In reality, midlife for the majority of us is a time of stable relationships, financial security, and relatively good health. Careers are well established. “For most, it is smooth sailing,” Brim said.
Of course, it’s not smooth sailing for everyone, but most of the time the stressors that happen during our middle years have nothing to do with age, and everything to do with life. Divorce, the loss of a job, death of a child, serious illness or severe financial problems can drop the floor out from beneath a person of any age.
So why then, do we hear so much about midlife crisis? For one thing, it’s perpetuated in the media. The stereotypical forty-something male acting like a teenager and the overly emotional, slightly irrational menopausal woman are two sides of the same coin. Yes, sometimes these fictional characters show up in our lives, but with far less frequency than we expect.
Aging is not something to be feared. Midlife does not mean “half over.” Rather, it’s a time of greater wisdom due to a lifetime of experience. It’s a time when many people say you finally “feel comfortable in your own skin”… when you know who you are, and you know how you feel, and you’re not afraid to say so.
If you’re approaching this time of life, embrace it. If you’re past midlife, encourage those younger than you with your story. Life is what you make of it, and many people make the most of it and find the greatest rewards after the age of forty.
Source: Washington Post Health: Midlife without a crisis
Thanks to 24 Hour Paradigm for featuring this post in the Day Shifting and Paradigm Blog Carnival.